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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2195 Episodes
Returning guest Jo Bhadi discusses using new platforms and technologies to predict cancer probability as well as what he’s learned about how cancer evolves. He also discusses how Quantgene seeks to serve its customers. He addresses How Quantgene uses the human genome sequence, artificial intelligence, liquid biopsies, and other technology platforms to identify cancer patterns; How they’ve put together a monthly subscription turnkey service for early cancer detection; and How cancer itself develops and how they approach detection with this layering of different types of information to achieve a specificity of detection above 90%. Jo Bhakdi started Quantgene in 2015 at a UC Berkeley Lab with a goal of early disease detection. The company uses quantitative science for a new level of precision. They started in cancer detection spaces using cell-free DNA sequencing with what is known about the human genome sequence. They saw a tremendous opportunity opening up based on new technology platforms, sequencing, and AI recognition algorithms. In a nutshell, they pursued how to look at cell-free DNA shed by cancer in the bloodstream and recognition patterns to identify the 15 most deadly cancers. They sell their services directly to patients but include physicians and genetic counselors in the process.  He explains their business model in further detail but also covers the complications of detecting and understanding cancer progression, from the heterogeneity of tumors to advantages of cell-free DNA sequencing compared to tumor biopsies. He explains the systemic insight into cancer a liquid biopsy offers.  He describes other limitations of tumor biopsies and how the question of heterogeneity of a tumor is surprisingly complex. In fact, he adds that the whole concept of quantifying tumor heterogeneity is a very new concept. He describes many characteristics of cancer and its evolution in more detail and then addresses how Quantgene layers many degrees of information, including medical and genetic history, to produce a highly precise probabilistic model.  For more about the company, see To find out about the direct-to-consumer service, see Available on Apple Podcasts:
Researcher Jean-Frederic Colombel has studied Inflammatory Bowel Disease treatment (IBD) for about forty years. He explains for listeners What complications occur with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which are included in the IBD designation; Why IBD can be brought into remission but is not considered cured; and How researchers are studying this autoimmune disease to understand causes and prevention. Jean-frederic Colombel is a professor of medicine and gastroenterology with the Feinstein IBD Clinical Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He came to Mount Sinai about 10 years ago and had been researching in Lille, France. He tells listeners how treatment of this autoimmune disease has progressed over 40 years and what scientists are still trying to understand. He explains that even though doctors are able to bring patients into deep remission with current inflammatory bowel disease treatment where they have no symptoms and show a perfect colonoscopy, there is not a real cure. As soon as they stop taking the medications, the disease makes headway. Since coming to Mount Sinai, he's worked on better predication and prevention measures.  He tells listeners that Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis overlap and differ. For example, medications that work for one also often work for the other.  Differences include how much of the digestive tract and layers of the bowel are being affected. Crohn's disease, for example, can result in a fistula—basically a "communication" or opening and track across the perennial area. They can result in painful abscesses and difficult day-to-day symptoms.  He then addresses known causes and describes how much is unknown. IBD is a young person's disease, often showing up around age 25, and early diagnosis is key to preventing complications. He describes studies to better understand the disease, such as a large scale serum sample collection of the U.S. Army to look at biomarkers, as well as treatment efforts beyond drugs such as fecal transplants to microbiome alterations.  For more see his page at Mount Sinai: Available on Apple Podcasts:
As an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Virginia, Anton Korinek studies macroeconomics and international financial stability. He shares details of his work and his input on the COVID-19 situation. Press play to discover: What “externality” means in economics, how it affects each of us every day, and why it’s important How the COVID-19 situation has impacted the economy and in what ways in may continue to do so What types of externalities have arisen as a result of COVID-19 The study of economics rests on the premise that the market economy is a very powerful force in society—one that has enabled much progress, but has also been known to lead society astray from the greater good. The force referred to here is called an externality. Korinek explains that externalities arise when people who engage in economic activity do so in a way that affects others without their consent. Consider, for example, a company that dumps waste in a river which runs through your property. Or anyone who produces greenhouse gasses which contribute to global warming. These are externalities, or forces which produce a negative impact on individuals and society at large.   Most recently, Korinek has been asking what kind of externalities have arisen from the COVID-19 situation. Mask mandates, social gathering restrictions, economic limitations…these are just a few topics that have become a serious issue of debate in recent months. Many people believe that these mandates infringe upon our civil liberties, but even more are disturbed by a seeming lack of evidence to support the idea that these restrictions are indeed helping the situation. As an economist, Korinek weighs in on these matters. He talks about the ways in which his opinions and viewpoints have changed over the course and development of the COVID-19 situation, the economic cost and effect of social distancing mandates, and what he thinks is likely to happen in the near and long-term future. Tune in, and check out for more. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Associate professor in molecular biosciences at Northwestern University, Erik Andersen, discusses his research in quantitative and molecular genetics. Tune in to learn: How millions of genetic variants in a section of a genome can be narrowed down to just one or two How and for what purpose Andersen uses CRISPR-Cas9 in his research Andersen’s short and long-term research goals  “If we could sequence a genome and then read it like a book, could we predict or understand the phenotype of an organism…how long we would live, the types of drugs we could take that would be most efficacious towards treating certain types of diseases, whether we’re predisposed to other diseases?”  In Andersen's lab, the focus is on answering this question by using roundworm nematodes to study the connection between the genome and different traits of the organism. He explains that there are many examples—not just in nematodes, but in flies and yeast and humans—of correlation between genetic sequence changes from organism to organism and trait differences. In humans, two of the most well-known are for type II diabetes risk and height. Andersen is looking at how differences in DNA can explain phenotypic differences such as responses to chemotherapeutics and toxins. This type of work is particularly challenging because there could be millions of variants in a particular region of the genome that may correlate with the trait of interest. This is where quantitative genetics tends to stop, and Andersen’s research picks up.  He explains that by using a genetic system like the nematode, large populations of individuals can be grown, their genomes can be mixed using genetic crosses, and the correlations can be broken down and further refined. This allows for the narrowing down of millions of variants to just a few hundred variants; additional crosses at this point can eventually break down those hundreds of variants to just one. Andersen dives into the details of this research and so much more, including what his research has shown about genetic polymorphism, what technologies have made this research possible, and the many benefits of using roundworms for this research. For more, visit Available on Apple Podcasts:
Space historian, author, and founder of the website Behind the Black, Bob Zimmerman, shares compelling insight into the world of his expertise on space information and the latest space technology. In this episode, you will discover: Why Zimmerman believes the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 had the greatest historical and cultural impact Why JFK sent us to the moon and how he used the Soviet model to do it The current transition from governmental control to the privately-run industry in space exploration, and how NASA’s bureaucracy has attempted to slow this transition “You cannot separate space exploration from the politics…and the culture of its time,” says Zimmerman. He discusses the Apollo program—the individual missions and the overall purpose and outcome of it. He also discusses the Space Shuttle program and why it largely failed to meet its supposedly intended goal. So, what is the aim of most projects focused on the moon? Zimmerman says it's to explore the potential of permanently shadowed craters on the moon where the sun never shines. Some data suggest that ice might be located in these areas, which means there would be oxygen and hydrogen, and therefore a source of fuel. He goes on to explain the efforts of various characters to explore these potentialities. In the last decade, Zimmerman says that the US has been transitioning away from the Soviet model to the US model within which private enterprise operates, and that NASA is no longer the leader of everything done in this field. He dives into the details of what this means, what SpaceX has accomplished since entering this market, the purpose and design of what’s called the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV), and so much more. Press play for an in-depth conversation covering all things space and space tech with a true expert on the matter. To learn more, check out Available on Apple Podcasts:
Professor Carvalho researches parasitic diseases in humans. In this podcast, she focuses on causes of malaria and tells listeners How the malaria parasite transmits to humans and more about its complex life cycle, Why investigating the stage of red blood cell infection, which initiates malaria symptoms, is key to preventing disease progression, and Why denying the parasites some cellular ingredients may arrest their development and provide cost-effective prevention measures. Teresa Carvalho is a senior lecturer of physiology, anatomy, and microbiology at La Trobe University in Australia. She explains the basic elements of parasitic diseases in humans and how parasites that cause malaria enter the blood stream from the salivary glands of mosquitos. After they go to the liver, they return to the red blood cells, feed on hemoglobin, expand, and divide. One parasite can divide until as many as 32 leave one blood cell. They destroy red blood cells along the way, which leads to fever and other detrimental results. Disease progression includes severe anemia and debilitating cerebral malaria, which can result in blood clots and coma.   Dr. Carvalho takes this information and explains key moments for therapeutic intervention, the crux of her research. Because their time in the red blood cells cause malaria symptoms and disease, scientists think this is when to focus treatment and research.  She adds that it’s a more accessible moment for research because they can culture these parasites in the lab in red blood cells. She also describes some of the mystery causes of malaria. For example, even the red blood cells that are not infected by the parasite die—she and her lab are trying to understand why. One theory involves extracellular vesicles these parasites use to communicate with each other. She also describes challenges to these studies, the hope of repurposing drugs that are used for other disease, as well as the urgency: children under five are the largest group that die from malaria.  For more about her work and to contact her with questions, see her page on the La Trobe University website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Researcher Brenda McManus is leading a microbiology study to better understand periodontal disease and foot ulcers in patients with diabetes. She explains her microbial research by discussing How Staphylococcus aureus links molecular biology, periodontal disease, and foot ulcers; Why patients with diabetes are immunologically prone to these microbial vulnerabilities; and How she’s identifying if the staph in the nose cavity is the same as that in the foot and next steps to find if it travels through the bloodstream or through contact. Dr. Brenda McManus is an Experimental Officer in Microbiology in the School of Dental Science at Trinity College in Dublin. She talks about her microbiology study involving dental health, foot ulcers, and diabetes with a focus on Staphylococci species. They’ve found bacteria in foot ulcers that “shouldn’t be there,” and these same bacteria are present in periodontal disease. She establishes why patients who suffer from diabetes struggle with foot ulcers and periodontal disease, from such reasons as poor circulation or nerve damage from excess glucose.  This means they can’t feel an injury to the foot or can’t feel pain when a wound is developing.  In addition, bacteria in periodontal disease can cause pockets in the gums and swelling and can ultimately lead to tooth loss. It is twice as common and more severe in people who have diabetes. She mentions additional research showing links between periodontal disease and other diseases throughout the body including heart and kidney disease. She describes her current research and says her team is comparing genomic sequences of different staph samples from the mouth, fingers, toes, and more, identifying which species are in each site. She adds that if they identify the same species in all the different sites, they will compare the isolate genomes. If they are the same, that would be very strong evidence that there is a link between these sites. She describes next steps, therapeutic goals, and the importance of awareness of periodontal health and disease prevention. For more, see her information on the Trinity College website,, and find her on Research Gate and LinkedIn. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Researcher Mark Denison has studied infectious diseases and specifically coronaviruses for decades and he explains some unique elements of their daunting mechanisms. He discusses What’s different about their genome size, replicating capabilities, protein encyclopedia, and more; How the enzyme that provides its proofreading system is a standalone in RNA viruses and why that’s important to its function; and  How all these variables are working toward different theories about ways to manage its infiltration. Mark Denison is Director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University. He’s spent much of his career working with coronaviruses and was concerned about a scenario like our current one long before March. He backs up and explains some general findings about coronaviruses including their unique capacity for rapid evolution and adaptation, entry, recruitment of cellular machinery, and so on. He tells listeners that they have significantly more base pairs than other RNA viruses. In fact, this is one of the largest RNA replicating genomes known. Its mechanisms are responsible for symptoms like recurrent fever causes and vulnerability for immunodeficiency sufferers. In 2007, Dr Denison and his team made a significant discovery about this type of virus after years of mystification surrounding its ability to regulate itself, as if it were not error prone, unlike other RNA viruses. They found that coronaviruses are the only known organisms that encode an RNA-dependent, RNA-proofreading system. Many organisms have a proofreading system for copying, but most RNA viruses, like dengue for example, lack the ability to fix mistakes. They create a crowd of mutants around them. Denison explains how this determines the ecology of most RNA viruses and how the enzyme that proofreads for coronaviruses makes for a very different ecology and virulence quality. He also explains the experiments his lab has made on the SARS-CoV-2 “wild-type” virus they’ve worked with to either decrease or increase its mutation rates as well as connections with therapy possibilities. He addresses concerns about flu season and the difficulty in diagnosing recurrent fever causes when both are an issue. Finally, he offers a reality check on what we can predict about SARS-CoV-2’s future in the general population and those with immunodeficiency. For more, google his name and see his lab website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Researcher Rebecca Traub discusses the most prevalent and damaging types of parasites in Australia and Southeast Asia. She describes How a parasite's life cycle means that her work as a veterinary parasitologist involves the human animal as well, How hookworms are the cause of a massive level of morbidity despite a simple deworming treatment, and How these worms cause anemia and other bodily trauma and how WHO has tried to combat its impact. Rebecca Traub is a professor in veterinary parasitology at the University of Melbourne. She's had a prolific career, with over 130 publications and several book chapters on the veterinary parasitology impact factors in Australia and Southeast Asia. Her work expands beyond cats and dogs and includes any animal impacted by parasites and their life cycles, including human mammals and resulting public health issues. She explains that parasites use a number of different hosts to stay alive. Therefore, her work can involve wildlife and conservation medicine. As an example, she recounts some work she did to help repopulate an island with the eastern barred bandicoot after an infestation by parasites carried by feral dogs hurt their population.   The majority of her work now is with zoonoses, or parasites transmitted between animals and humans through various means, but her main focus is on soil-transmitted helminths and tick-borne and flea-borne parasites. She describes one of the most dangerous parasites in the world, a soil-borne parasite called Ancylostoma ceylanicum, which is dropped in the soil from dog feces. It's the second most common hookworm in Australia and Southeast Asia and therefore has a tremendous veterinary parasitology impact factor. She explains why it is still a massive problem despite a large-scale effort on WHO's part to decrease its morbidity. She goes into detail about how these worms harm the human body and possible next steps to decrease its negative impact. For more, see her university website at and search her name in Google Scholar. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Chair of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of South Alabama, Kevin Macaluso, joins the show to discuss something you might not have even heard of: rickettsiology. Tune in to discover: What happens when tick-borne spotted fever goes undetected in the host In what ways rickettsia behave like viruses, and how they use host cell molecules to move around and penetrate neighboring cells What types of vector, host, and pathogenic variables are at play in the transmission biology of rickettsia Rickettsiology is the study of obligate intracellular gram-negative bacteria that was described over 100 years ago by Howard Taylor Ricketts, a physician who set out to study the then-unknown source of a lethal disease often referred to as black measles or spotted fever. Through a series of studies, Ricketts and other researchers figured out that the bacteria causing the disease could be transmitted through tick bites. Over 40 species of rickettsia have been identified worldwide. Ultimately, it is Macaluso’s goal to figure out what drives rickettsia pathogenesis in order to potentially intervene in the transmission cycle and stop it. Macaluso’s research is centered around the disease transmission cycle of rickettsia. “Because you’re dealing with bacteria that are transmitted by arthropods to vertebrate hosts, they form a triad of vector-borne diseases, and there are a lot of variables associated with that…it’s a complex interaction between these three organisms, and we study all aspects of it,” explains Macaluso.  He goes on to explain the mechanisms of the bacteria once in the body, including how and where they replicate in the body, how they disseminate in the body, how certain rickettsial pathogens affect the ticks through which transmission occurs, and more. Visit for more info. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Paul Offit, MD is Director of the Vaccine Education Center, professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He joins the show to share his perspective on COVID-19 and the rush to develop a vaccine for it. Press play to learn: What a phase 3 trial for a vaccine for this virus would mean, and how important it is Why and how it might be possible to produce a commercial vaccine for COVID-19 within 1.5 years of identifying the strain, when other vaccine research and development programs take 15-20 years What types of novel methods can be used for vaccine development “The fact that two-thirds of the population would get a theoretical, unknown vaccine for which they have no data against a virus which has been, at best, elusive…is pretty amazing…I think I would have answered ‘No’ to that question; I want to see the data first,” says Dr. Offit.   The COVID-19 vaccine development program is receiving unprecedented international interest, much of which is in the form of billions of dollars poured in by the WHO, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and about 80 other companies worldwide. Dr. Offit expresses concern over the less extensive licensure process and safety issues that may be associated with the emergency-use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine. On this note, he discusses the importance of phase 3 clinical trials involving a cohort of 30,000 people, 20,000 of which would receive the experimental vaccine and 10,000 of which would receive a placebo. Dr. Offit also discusses the efforts behind Operation Warp Speed, what it would mean to have a vaccine provide short-lived and incomplete protection, novel mechanisms of vaccine development such as those that rely upon messenger RNA, information about the potential of the COVID-19 virus to mutate away from potential vaccines, and much more. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Associate Professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Purnima Bhanot, joins the show to discuss all things malaria. In this episode, you will discover: What the malaria parasite does once it enters the human body How many deaths continue to occur annually as a result of malaria, and why approximately 80% of these deaths are of children under age five When and how a human can build an immune response and avoid the worst consequences of malaria How the insecticide DDT was used for malaria control, and how it actually led to a resurgence of malaria in countries that had nearly eradicated it   Malaria has plagued the human species for as long as we have known agriculture. With about 200 million cases and 400,000 deaths per year, it has a staggering toll on human life, but only half of the toll it had about a decade ago. Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. The disease affects primarily children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa, and leads to a number of symptoms, including high fever, chills, anemia, coma, and death. Bhanot explains the life cycle of the malaria parasite and exactly how it interacts with the body during subclinical and clinical phases of the disease. She also discusses which populations of individuals are most vulnerable to the disease and why, what sort of control methods have been implemented, how the immune response to the parasite works, whether malaria infects non-human animals, the increasing resistance to antimalarial drugs and how this is being studied, and so much more. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Research Fellow at Imperial College London, Dr. Stephanie Wright, shares the expertise she’s gained over the course of nearly a decade researching the biological and environmental impacts of microplastic pollution. Press play to learn: How up to 90% of household synthetic fibers may end up as soil conditioner to agricultural fields By what chemical and physical mechanisms plastics turn into microplastics Approximately how many microplastic particles we are exposed to on a daily basis through diet Where does that plastic soda bottle you’re drinking from end up? How does the mere friction produced by your movement release synthetic clothing fibers into the environment, and where do those end up? What are “microplastic sinks” and where are they found? These are just a few of the questions explored by Dr. Wright, who’s been fascinated by marine biology since the early days of undergraduate school. At the time, she was doing lab-based research on the impact of microplastic ingestion by marine worms. The findings showed negative effects, including less feeding and a compromised ability to store energy. What might this suggest about the effect of microplastic pollution on other species? Her current area of research is on human exposure to and human health effects of airborne microplastic pollution, which she says requires a strong focus on analytical techniques since the particles of interest are on the micron scale. These particles can enter the central airway and lower lung, and part of her research aims to identify evidence of this internal exposure and better understand how microplastics affect human cells of the airway. Are microplastics even toxic, and if so, what exactly makes them toxic? Tune in for all the details on these important topics, and learn more at Available on Apple Podcasts:
Virologist Jonathan Latham explains his view of living organisms in opposition to genetic or biological determinism. He shares a wide range of thoughts, including A theory of how COVID-19 began in a group of miners in Wuhan in 2012; How our societal structure self-corrects to understanding science through genetic or biological determinism, prioritizing genetics facts; and A different way to conceive of living organisms as constantly changing with nonhierarchical layers of cooperation rather than an over-emphasis on the importance of genetics.  Jonathan Latham, PhD, is the executive director and cofounder of the Bioscience Resource Project. He's the editor of Independent Science News and director of the Poison Papers project, which publishes documents on the chemical industry. In this podcast, he begins by engaging with ideas presented in a previous podcast when Richard spoke with famed biologist Denis Noble. Noble said that there's no privileged level of causation in biology and Latham continues to address this issue, offering his own commentary over the course of the show. He explains that he became interested in the kind of prominence that scientists give to genes and DNA and eventually came to the realization that there are a lot of flaws in how we think about organisms that stem from adherence to genetics facts and emphasizing the importance of genetics. He asserts that the only agency that exists in an organism is the one that derives from the organism itself and explains what this means in more concrete terms. He also touches on current projects such as a paper he and Allison Wilson wrote about their theory on the origin of SARS-CoV-2, which he believes was through a group of miners who experienced a mysterious disease in 2012. After explaining in more detail, he returns to the ideas of genetic determinism and talks about a book he's authoring on the topic. To find out more, he suggests getting on the mailing list of Independent Science News. Available on Apple Podcasts:
In 2014, physician Diva Nagula was surprised to face a startling diagnosis. His medical and personal journey is now a part of stage 4 lymphoma survivors' stories and he shares some of what he's learned post cancer treatment. He shares with listeners How he handled his diagnosis and cancer treatment, from a fight-or-flight response to anger; How he was able to find the spark again and claim a healthy place and lifestyle for himself; and How he advises patients to do the same for themselves. Dr. Diva Nagula is an author, physician, and stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. He adds his particular experience as a physician to other stage 4 lymphoma survivors' stories and now brings a different outlook to his own patients. He began his career as a board-certified osteopathic physician and has extensive knowledge and training in Integrative and Functional Medicine. He tells listeners the different phases of his diagnosis, from his first doctor visit to his waiting period before undergoing chemotherapy. He describes spiraling into a fight-or-flight mode at this time as well as an angry phase that left him alone and without social support. He transitions to his cancer treatment and eventually remission. But he adds that he then landed in a phase of depression. Though he was happy the cancer was in remission, it had been his only relationship and such a sharp point of focus for so long. After the treatments he found himself basically alone and asking "what's next?" He talks about how the "spark" eventually came back to him through a chance encounter with a previous trainer. He then describes his own lifestyle changes, from eating choices to exercise to mindfulness and spiritual practices. He's written a book about the experience and offers consultations for patients through his website. For more, see his website at  Available on Apple Podcasts:
ER doctor Jeff Gusky presents a strong case for key prevention measures of COVID-19 transmission and is eager to spread the word. He tells listeners about The connection between low humidity and Vitamin D levels increasing COVID-19 infections,  Numerous examples that show how this is mirrored in hot spots and differences in country contagions, and Ways to mitigate these causes and how his grassroots movement is trying to spread the word. In addition to being an ER doctor, Jeff Gusky is a National Geographic photographer and an explorer. In this podcast he addresses urgent concerns he has about COVID-19 in light of the approaching flu season as well as for folks with vitamin D deficiencies. His concern for flu season actually centers on the low humidity levels in cooler months. Therefore, he's launching two grassroots initiatives to spread his concerns: 1. Don't Go In and 2. Get started, Get Tested, Get Right. The first initiative emphasizes the dangers of low humidity and urges people to get a hydrometer and not enter spaces below 50% absolute humidity. He asserts that COVID-19 infection only happens indoors in dangerously dry air and is completely tied to weather conditions. He's concerned that as fall approaches and the air gets dryer, the virus will infect more easily. He mentions findings and studies to support this trend and describes different climates that have seen different infection rates. His second initiative connects vitamin D and coronavirus infections. Studies have shown a correlation between vitamin D deficiencies and trouble with COVID-19; therefore, he urges listeners to get their vitamin D levels assessed and supplement if low. He provides more detailed numbers and findings in the podcast as well and discusses his free webinar to promote these issues. Jeff Gusky just completed this 16-minute webinar about GOING ON OFFENCE AGAINST THE VIRUS. For more information, watch his webinar. He's also happy to take questions by email: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Microbes perform functions from digesting our food to cycling elements in the environment. Aindrila Mukhopadhyay works to unpack some of their huge potential in her work. She explains to listeners The variety of microbe roles, from biofilms that hold the desert down to carbon-eating strains of microbial life; How types of membrane transport and signaling lead to various lab modifications for effective studies; and Examples of lab discoveries, including a fungus-bacteria combination that produces sustainable dyes.  Aindrila Mukhopadhyay is a Biological Engineer Senior Scientist at Berkeley Lab. She studies types of membrane transport and stress response in microbiology, specifically bacterial stress response. She helps listeners understand her field by describing the capability of microbes, including their ability to make compounds and products that are valuable and can address some of the biggest challenges facing us. She offers some fascinating examples such as Pseudomonas putida KT2440, which can eat carbon sources that other microbes have difficulty eating.  She also explains how she works with these organisms in a lab setting, describing plasmid transport and utilizing stress responses in microbiology to allow cells to take in media. She also discusses how her work implements engineering strategies and how that dictates which organisms she may use. For example, she stays away from organisms with a bacterial stress response of spore production because manufacturing necessitates predictable and stable organism. Finally, she gives examples of current projects as part of her work with the Bioenergy Research Center funded by the Department of Energy. She leads a group that studies organisms that produce biofuels and other bio products.   For examples of her work, google her name for a list of publications and see her institution web site: Available on Apple Podcasts:
What exactly does a virus do to invade our bodies? Scientist St. Patrick Reid addresses the mechanics through specific virus pathologies. He addresses how viruses use proteins to undercut the immune system and ensure replication, how the chikungunya virus infection has become more prevalent and often leaves chronic symptoms, and why these lasting effects from this RNA virus are especially puzzling and how scientists approach such questions. St Patrick Reid is an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska. He focuses on the virology of proteins encoded by highly pathogenic viruses like the chikungunya virus infection. He explains what this means by describing his graduate and early career studies on Ebola and other host-pathogen interaction examples. Ebola is able to invade an organisms by encoding for proteins that block the immune system from responding. This gives the virus enough time to amplify itself and replicate. When the body is finally able to react, the virus is so pervasive it over reacts, often unleashing a dangerous over-response; in fact, this is what happens with COVID-19. Dr. Reid than describes the history of the chikungunya virus infection and how it has made its way from one part of the world to another, including South America and the southern United States. Transmitted by mosquitoes, it often results in a debilitating arthritis that can last for years and scientists don't understand how or why. In fact, that's one of his areas of research, to understand its pathology. As an RNA virus, it does not invade the nucleus and change the genome. He explains some possible theories and his own approach to solving this mystery. He also discusses his thoughts on COVID-19 from his protein-focused research and describes the magnanimous ways researchers are working together across the world to find ways to combat its effects. The best way to keep an eye on his work and learn more include following him on Twitter as @StPatrickReid3 as well as reviewing his university lab web page at Available on Apple Podcasts:
In Kathy Louise Ruddy’s lab at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, brain-computer interfaces (BCI) are used to study the brain, improve aspects of human behavior, and generate evidence of the efficacy of a new technique in stroke rehabilitation. Tune in to learn: How electroencephalography and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) BCI techniques work Why the current gold standard in stroke rehab (constraint-induced movement therapy) only works for some people, and how TMS can fill the gap When a new stroke rehab therapy could be brought to the clinic For people who are recovering from stroke, there’s a new therapeutic technique being researched that could hold great promise: transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS is a type of BCI that magnetically stimulates the brain to cause a response (i.e. movement) in the muscle. These responses are recorded and used as feedback for the BCI, which enables the user to see and control those responses using various strategies. For example, if the user wants to increase the intensity of the muscle response in a finger, they might imagine forcibly pushing an object with that hand; if the user wants to decrease the intensity of the muscle response, they might imagine that their hand is cold or detached from the body. The hope is that when this is applied to the affected limb of a stroke patient, it will build and strengthen the neural pathways that were used to trigger movement in the muscle prior to the stroke, thereby increasing function and use of the affected limb. Ruddy discusses all the details of this technique and more, including past and upcoming research, results and feedback from research subjects, the use of electroencephalography to train users to control their brainwaves/neural oscillations, and what the near and long-term goals look like for Ruddy’s team. Learn more by visiting Available on Apple Podcasts:
Researcher Victoria Orphan implements environmental microbiology to understand the ecology of organisms in deep sea spaces unsuitable for human life. Her research has broad implications: these life forms process methane, a compound involved in global warming. In this podcast, she discusses Some of the symbiotic relationships in these ocean depths, from the farming yeti crab that grow their own bacteria food to the archaea and bacteria symbionts that she studies; How these microorganisms sequester methane and why that's important; and What this has to do with discovering life on Mars. Victoria Orphan is the James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science and Geobiology and the director of the Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions at Caltech. She studies the ecology of microbes and the minerals and elements that they cycle. This means utilizing tools of microbiology to understand how these microorganism function. Because she focuses on deep ocean systems, these interactions are often between undomesticated organisms that exist in extreme environments like hydrothermal vents.  She's trying to learn how they influence the cycling of geological systems and elements like carbon and methane. She discusses some of her ventures into the ocean, describing the curious yeti crabs she observed—crabs that have a symbiosis with oxidizing bacteria and wave their arms over sulfur-rich vents to feed these bacteria that coats their arms and that they then eat.  A lot of her focus, however, is on the microscale ecology of what is happening in these spaces. This includes microorganisms that are involved in the transfer of methane. She describes her study of a microbial symbiosis that is occurring between an archaea and a bacteria that use sulfates from seawater, removing methane. She expounds on the challenges of such a study and how this may help understand what exactly ends up in the atmosphere and causes warming.  To find out more, see her lab's website: 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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