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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2311 Episodes
Friction, forces, shears: the game changes when robots get tiny. Marc Miskin brings you to scale on these up-and-coming microrobots and nanorobots for biotechnology. Listen and learn How the rules of physics adjust when the application of robotics goes small, How these factors bring interesting challenges surrounding loss of inertia and other aspects of robot locomotion, and What biomimicry this research entails such as nano flagella and cilia.  Marc Miskin is an assistant professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and works in a robotic systems lab. He's working on nano machines that may one day soon explore our bodies for medical purposes. The robots are so small that they aren't visible to the eye—think approximately hair width. This field has taken the advances in small computers to small robots, around 70 to 100 microns in size. The forces at this scale are different, of course, and bring in some interesting challenges. When they get tinier, friction, adhesion, and viscosity become the dominant effects and mass takes second stage. Those dominant traits become more important as the area-to-volume ratio becomes large. "It's like everything in your universe is flypaper," he says. What's really interesting is that the electrical aspects remain constant. The voltages and currents are still fixed and electrical interference isn't an issue. The way they move, to swim or propel, also becomes very different than larger human-sized organisms—they can't rely on mass to keep the momentum going. They use silicon, wires, and metal so that, unlike with biological organisms, they can play around with such materials to address these challenges. However, he assures listeners, these materials fall under "generally recognized as safe," and are low toxicity. Elasticity is also an issue these materials hope to address. They need to create enough movement over a small size that can also be controlled by a signal with a specific voltage size, about 1. They came up with something they call "circuit electric chemical actuators," which basically chemically bonds through electron rearranging to create a force. He explains more interesting challenges in this tiny production model and addresses applications for these microbots in real life, though they are still in proof of concept. They imagine utilizing them when single-cell precision is desired, as with nerve work.  For more about this work, see his lab's website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Another in the Finding Genius Podcast series on viruses, this captivating conversation with Yale University's Dr. Takyar explores interesting avenues of the virus-host relationship, offering listeners a glimpse into a top researcher's understandings of viral characteristics and behavior. Listeners will hear How his answer to the inevitable question, "are viruses living" provides a new spin, Why a recent study shows that viruses do message each other as translated through cellular machinery, and What his own research may show regarding a virus's ability to affect surrounding cells in such a way to increase the potential for tumor growth by creating a niche. Seyedtaghi “Shervin” Takyar, MD, PhD, is a Yale Medicine pulmonologist and an associate professor of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine. His work on disease research his given him an interesting perspective on virus-cell interaction and Richard brings him into this continuing look at viral behaviors. They begin by addressing if viruses are living or nonliving and this gives Dr. Takyar a chance to provide a rich answer in which he says, on the one hand, they are akin to a program in a computer if a computer were consider "life." On the other hand, he adds, nature doesn't have rigid lines, and he would say viruses are at the very least a footprint of life. He explains each of these analogies in more depth and ends his answer with, "it is more interesting to find their place in life," rather than label them as one or the other. The rest of the podcast examines this place. The origin and evolution of viruses follows the pattern of life: virus evolution over time just means they've found those places that fit best. He explains various behavior with similar language. For example, a virus incubation period depends on their environment. They may not express parts of their genome until the right time comes. The right time inside the cell is dictated by a lot of actors—like aging, for example—the increased mortality in older folks with SARS CoV-2 is because those states are codes for the virus: certain parts of the process that it needs to grow are available and this triggers replication. He shares a brand new behavior confirmed by researchers next, that viruses use the factory inside cells to talk to each other. Scientists have shown that bacteriophages use the translation machinery inside the bacteria to translate their message to other viral particles. Dr. Takyar shares more of his thoughts with listeners on topics from quasi-species to speculations on viral epigenetics.  For more about Dr. Takyar and his research, start with his lab website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
An exciting step closer to a cure for diabetes starts with a bit of gastric tissue. Joe Zhou's lab works on tissue regeneration and repair and organ regeneration. In this podcast, he discusses a life-changing possibility alongside Richard's thoughtful questions. They take listeners across a new frontier of research, covering How insulin-producing beta cells have been destroyed in those who have type 1 diabetes, requiring them to inject manufactured insulin, How a process of converting beta cells from a patient's gastric tissue may solve numerous problems in other proposed solutions, and What challenges are still to be met, including fine tuning the introduction of the new cells into the pancreas.   Joe Zhou is a Professor of Regenerative Medicine at Cornell University. While the broad interest of his lab is tissue and organ regeneration in humans, he discusses an advancement in a specific cell generation, a cell important to the diabetes and insulin connection. Many important organs, he explains, don't have a robust ability to regenerate, including the pancreas. In type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing beta cells have been attacked as if they were foreign invaders. Injecting insulin doesn't give these patients the fine tuning a working pancreas offers, and complications can be problematic and even severe. Dr. Zhou gives listeners a well-organized and listener-friendly review of different ways scientists have tried to reintroduce these cells in patients and sets up a helpful backdrop to his own research. He explains how his work may provide hope for both types of diabetes, addressing insulin resistance as well through introducing these healthy beta cells. His lab has been regenerating islet beta cells from human gastric tissue. The goal is to reintroduce those cells into the same patient, precluding rejection issues other transplant plans have caused. Basically, they are able to take adult gastric cells and treat them in a way to convert them directly to beta cells without having to return them to a pluripotent stage and all the complications that causes. They use powerful genes called master regulators to do this. "If we start with a select set of these master regulator beta cells," he says, "and put in a different tissue, we can directly convert them from one tissue to another tissue." He continues by explaining why this is especially true for gastric cells, how they grow the cells with an ex-vivo approach and introduce the genes, and which processes they hope to refine in the future. He addresses other challenges and successes as well. So listen in for some good news in the field of diabetes research. For more, see his lab's website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Independent consultant and researcher Marciel Maffini has made it her mission to change woefully outdated laws and scientific processes for assessing food safety. This podcast is an essential listen before you take another product off the grocery shelf. She describes The many chemicals added to food, including food preservatives, or come from equipment processing and toxic chemicals in food packaging, What the law the FDA still uses from 1958 means by "generally recognized as safe," and how food manufacturers pass many harmful ingredients under the cover of that label, and Practical everyday advice for preparing food at home to protect your family from food preservatives and their harmful effects. Maricel Maffini is an experienced researcher committed to public health advocacy through regulation and oversight of chemical exposure. She now works as an independent consultant and has a doctorate in the biological sciences. She has over 25-years research experience in the fields of carcinogenesis, reproduction biology, and endocrine disruption. The full focus of her current work involves food safety and chemical exposures, specifically on the manufacturing and packaging side. She tells listeners that many chemicals are added to foods by the manufacturer to make them last longer and be more palatable as well as to add more striking colors. In addition, part of the processing can expose food to chemicals that won't appear in the ingredients list. She adds that exposure to numerous chemicals and preservatives during pregnancy can be especially risky. In other words, a much better food safety regulation process is in order. To help listeners understand what needs changing, she provides a helpful and clear explanation of how FDA regulations work, where the loopholes are, and what she is doing about it. For example, because of an allowance in the 1958 law allowing items "generally recognized as safe" to be exempt from detailed ingredient listings, numerous harmful items are able to sneak into food.  She also explains the approval process companies have to use when putting a product on the market, and how a surprising amount of information and approval is voluntary. Furthermore, because many ingredients are harmful after cumulative exposure, certain harmful chemicals slip in as a series of small amounts while our comprehensive diet could potentially include harmful levels. Maricel Maffini is admirably tackling all these issues and is able to explain them in a way to help listeners do the same. Finally she gives some advice for home preparation to help against some of the potential manufacturing missteps.  For more about her work, follow her on twitter as @mvmaffini and search for her on PubMed. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Imagine scientists designing technology based on the double-helix DNA structure in our cells: well, it's happened and this podcast takes you on a futuristic journey into an exciting technology. Richard talks with a researcher working on this technology and the two speculate on exciting possibilities. So hold on tight, and learn about How antenna the size of DNA might be used in biomedical imaging techniques to capture cell images, How that same structure on a larger scale can bring more home technologies into one device, and Why that double-helix structure and base pair combination is the perfect model for modern antennas. Great leaps often come from an inventor's effort to imitate nature and this is one such move. A researcher shares his exciting work on creating double-helix antennas with different sizes and capabilities. He explains the basics of antennas, but also opens up listener's appreciation for how many natural antennas exist in our bodies and world. He reminds us that antennae have always been inspired by nature, and, for example, are on the head of insects to detect chemical and mechanical signals in their environment. Therefore he and his colleagues looked inward and designed antenna inspired by DNA structure—a design structure modeling the double helix with base pairs that determine the antenna function. Because they've made these base pairs easy to switch, the function can be adjusted very easily and this makes them useful for the multiple applications that exist in today's multi-tech environment. He says that the three kinds of base pairs they use include those that work by capacitor, resistor, or conductor capabilities. He and Richard are able to explore numerous exciting potentials that different sizes, frequencies, and wavelengths make possible, from the importance of medical imaging to the convenience of wearable technology use. They even discuss how our own cells could be used as antenna, and explore how DNA's copy mechanisms might inform further developments. Modern materials such as the uses of photonic crystals and coherent optics keep those possibilities wide open. So listen in for more about cutting edge antenna technology.  Available on Apple Podcasts:
This is a story about how studying a buried city in the jungle led to an urgent call to utilize a new technology to map our earth. Archaeologist Christopher Fisher was astounded by LiDAR technology when he used it to map an ancient city covered by sense forest canopy in Honduras. This podcast explores what happened next. Listen and learn How he was able to use LiDAR to digitally strip away jungle and forest to create a 3D image of an ancient city, Why he thinks there's an urgent need to use this same technology to create significant laser mapping of the earth, and What campaign, timeline, and project goals his group, The Earth Archive, is currently working on and how listeners can participate. Christopher Fisher is an archaeologist and professor of anthropology at the Colorado State University. He's also the director of The Earth Archive, a group working for our future human society and environment by scanning and curating LiDAR data of planet Earth. After seeing its potential in archaeological discoveries, he says it "really opened my eyes to see how we could use this to map our earth, to create a 3D digital twin of the planet that we can study today and curate for future generations." It has several other applications scientists can now use, from cultural anthropology to biology and geography, but he's looking to the future. His enthusiasm lead him to create a nonprofit to engineer just that, and tells listeners about his efforts to move forward.  He describes how helpful archeologists have found it, but his long-term perspective into the past gives him a similar long-term perspective towards mapping information for future generations. Because of climate change, future human societies and environments may benefit from views of what our earth looks like right now. He says there's a limited time we have to scan the earth and map what it looks like to pass this information to our grandchildren, to help them reconstruct the earth and address the changes. He explains how the technology itself works: basically, from some sort of airborne platform, they fire down a very dense grid of infrared beams. When one strikes an object, it returns to the aircraft and provides a measure of distance. A cloud of points provides a 3D map. He says their first goal is to map the entire amazon basin starting in the spring of 2021. Interested listeners can sign up for their newsletter and find more information on their website: The Earth Archive. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Ready to explore energy sources and supercapacitor applications you can build with? The time is now for energy storage advances and this podcast explores an exciting structural possibility. To learn more about this advancement in energy, listen and hear How Julio D'Arcy's lab was able to transform a brick ingredient, hematite, into an energy-storing material, What the polymer nanofiber they use to coat the bricks is capable of, and What energy storing device applications they can use these bricks for now and how they hope to improve the energy density for future applications.  Julio D'Arcy is an assistant professor of chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis. He brings listeners along in the search for supercapacitors as energy storage system. He discovered that rust—which is iron corrosion—is a fascinating material, abundant in both nature and in synthetic conditions like construction.  He started working with rust in his lab, demonstrating how they could change its properties at a chemical level and make it serve as an oxidant of chemical energy, which is a means to store energy. Under careful syntheses, they turned bricks blue and changed their structure and coated them with special nanofibers. These nanofibers move like a sponge throughout all the pores, covering every surface, yet allowing the fusion of gases and ions through the still-open pores.  He explains how these nanofibers are semiconductors made from PEDOT, which is a conducting polymer. This plastic can conduct electricity, store energy, and grow from the hematite in the bricks. The vision for these bricks is to eventually produce supercapacitors to replace batteries and be used as a dependable load-bearing energy source. The trick, he says, is to make sure the structure and chemical properties don't change over time and this has nanofiber alignment implications. He tells listeners about their work with magnetic nanofibers toward that end. He also talks about the limits from the much lower energy density these bricks have than batteries and how they are working on that limitation. This progresses into an exciting conversation about possible solutions and ways this technology can only improve. He adds that while they are about five years from load-bearing commercial applications, current uses include smaller-scale applications like power emergency lighting in the house or powering small electronics embedded in the house. This polymer has exciting potential for other applications like its ability to sense changes in PH, humidity, and temperature: the sensor capability for at-home use is boundless. For more, see his lab's website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Derek Abbott opens up a decades-long mystery for listeners in this exploration of biomedical engineering technology applied to an unidentified dead man found on a beach in 1948. Listen and learn How electrical engineering techniques can marry medicine and biology to tackle tricky problems, How he has used everything from the cut of the Somerton man's tie to the mitochondrial find in three hair roots to tackle the mystery behind this corpse, and How bioinformatics, big data analytics, and deep learning are of importance for medicine, human identification, and forensics. Derek Abbott is a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia. He has a physics and electrical engineering background and explains his field as bridging electrical engineering, medicine, and biology. Therefore, he can tackle tricky problems by utilizing biology and engineering. He believes in the importance of his academic role: "We work on difficult problems in a multidisciplinary manner," he says. "The problem isn't the goal," he adds; rather, "the tools and techniques we pick up on the way will serve society as a whole." This podcast takes an in-depth look at some of these techniques and tools regarding a curious mystery of our time. Professor Abbot has been working on human identification, and particularly on the curious case of the Somerton Man. He tells listeners how his field informs this work by taking us through the most interesting puzzles and solutions. A mysterious figure was found dead on a beach in Australia in 1948. There wasn't a scratch on him and no one knows how he died. This complete mystery has engaged the world and Derek Abbott is on the case. He describes some biomedical engineering techniques he has used as well as plain old detective work to decipher the significance of the note in the man's pocket, how his tie fabric was cut, and what could the women's phone number on the back of his copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He describes some amazing bioinspired engineering techniques including their attempts at mitochondrial work and other DNA workarounds, and explains the significance of the "graceful degradation of information." Listen in for a fascinating mystery and one man's dedication to following it to its end. For more about his work see his website: Available on Apple Podcasts: and find Derek on Twitter at @derek_abbott60.
Upgrading isn't just for phone systems. Quantum information science tackles the upgrade of old existing technologies, which run by classical physics laws, to those that function in the quantum realm. It's as easy as it sounds: Vlatko Vederal tells listeners what this entails and what possibilities researchers like him are working toward. Listen and learn What order researchers must move in to do this transfer, from quantum cryptography research to large-scale quantum computing, Why quantum cryptography offers a much more secure channel of communication, and What timeline will this upgrade follow and how soon might we be carrying around quantum laptops.  Vlatko Vedral is a professor at University of Oxford in Quantum Information Science. He explains his field in helpful terms, comparing classical technologies with quantum technologies like quantum computing applications. His useful analogies give listeners a comprehensive picture of what this will look like and he provides a specific timeline. First, he says, quantum cryptography will take more of a center stage because it's the simplest one to begin with. Then there will be a shift towards implementing quantum memory, and finally, in the next ten years or so, we will see upgrades to large scale quantum computers. His explanation about how quantum cryptography helps elucidate the challenges for all quantum applications. Basically, if two people are trying to communicate using quantum bits, anyone eavesdropping is forced to a take measurement and collapse the communication to classical properties. This makes their listening-in detectable because that action will emit a lower fidelity, giving them away. He and Richard then discuss more fascinating potentials and the challenges they present, which tend to center on the error rate and physical necessities. For example, they must cool an atom to an extremely low temperature. As more cubits are added, the system gets hotter and noisier. Their only current solution is to do error correction, but researchers like Vedral are working towards better techniques. So listen in for these exciting possibilities. For more, see his website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Valkyrie has brought together some of the best minds to utilize artificial intelligence in operations management. This podcast presents a fascinating conversation on the latest ways artificial intelligence can impact decision making. Plug in, listen, and hear Ways this applied-sciences firm uses biologists, chemists, and physicists to deploy deep learning techniques, Some application examples, such as utilizing artificial intelligence in healthcare by developing prediction tools for a global ambulance company, and Methods they use for financial services, from actuarial to forecasting models and doubling down on quantum-driven hedge funds. Charlie Burgoyne, Valkyrie’s CEO, educates listeners on the phenomenal potential of artificial intelligence in healthcare, financial services, government applications, and even the entertainment and transportation space. He tells listeners to think of his firm as a modern-day Bell Labs, basically a research institute turned industrial team. Valkyrie employs biologists, chemists, and physicists to work on different verticals, deploying algorithms and machine learning techniques to dramatically improve operational efficiencies and customer retention. He adds that while they do a degree of consulting, they're predominately scientists solving industrial problems. He shares some of these challenges that AI easily meets, such as helping the largest ambulance company in the world develop COVID modeling predication tools and resource allocation plans. For example, they can predict what counties are likely to have an outbreak of disease and why, and inform them how to best provide and allocate PPE accordingly. He adds that their most impactful projects live in the defense sector, identifying different types of behavior that help complex data systems adjust new data and develop supporting algorithms. But a nice vacation is also on their list of services, and they've recently helped a large cruise line identify which systems are creating failures, what can be optimized, and how they can develop operational capabilities to keep the ocean clean and still expand their operation. He finishes with an interesting discussion of their approach to financial services and where they go against the grain by embracing quantum-driven hedge fund models. Listen in to learn more about how Valkyrie deploys AI for a better future. For information about the company, see their website at Available on Apple Podcasts: 
While chronic kidney disease diagnosis is rare in children, its effects are profound. Furthermore, there's so much scientists don't know about kidney function. Keia Sanderson is hoping to change that. She specializes in chronic kidney disease treatment in pediatric patients and discusses avenues to advance treatment and prevention. This podcast gives her the perfect platform to explain How kidney disease is especially challenging to identity in children because chronic kidney disease stages are often asymptomatic in pediatric patients, Why preterm babies are vulnerable to certain conditions because of the development timing of the nephrons, and Why it's important to identity intervention measures before dialysis and kidney transplantation provide the only recourse. Keia Sanderson, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Her job is a mix of teaching, clinical work, and research. In her clinical work, she takes care of children with kidney disease at all stages, including kids who receive transplants. Her current research is focused on kidney outcomes in children with complex medical histories, in particular children who've been born prematurely. She says that the challenge is oftentimes the asymptomatic nature of kidney disease in children. Therefore, she and other clinicians are often meeting kids with disease states that are irreversible and are turning toward dialysis treatment and transplantation.  Dr. Sanderson gives listeners a special focus on the risks from preterm birth. Because preterm babies tend to have less nephron development, the nephrons that are present have to work overtime and are subject to hyper filtration. But because doctors have been able to identify this as a critical time, they are looking at ways to better manage preterm infant treatment. For example, what medications are they receiving that could affect kidney development? How are we feeding infants in this active development stage? How are we handling their oxygenation? While a clear pathway is not yet evident, she is hopeful she and other researches will find one. Currently, she's hoping to develop mathematical models to make better predications about the risk levels for different babies. For more information, see the UNC Kidney Center, the National Kidney Foundation, and talk to your primary doctor. Available on Apple Podcasts: 
"As a flu researcher," says Stacey Schultz-Cherry, "it's frustrating to hear 'it's just flu.'" This podcast helps listeners gain a much better understanding about the constant effort to pin down strains for vaccines and the need for better spillover maintenance. She explains Why researching infectious viruses like influenza in high-risk populations is vital for their health,  How the influenza virus structure, like the RNA-segmented construction, makes these strains recombine, and Why even if it is not 100% effective, a flu vaccine will still prevent you from getting severe disease and ending up in the hospital. Stacey Schultz-Cherry is a member of St. Jude Faculty and specializes in flu research. Her lab just received funding to make flu vaccines more effective for at-risk populations, populations who experience much less efficacy with the vaccine. But she takes this podcast opportunity to educate listeners about the vaccine itself and influenza causes and the microbiology of viruses. She clears up several misunderstandings. For example, she says the reason scientists can't just give one shot with 20 different strains is because of the interactions between the strains. One strain can outgrow another, for example, or your body might mount a higher response to one component over another. But scientists are researching how to make this possible. She also teaches listeners about the yearly process of sequencing strains that are out there and taking data from around the world to make the best predictions possible and choose the four strains it seems best to include. Why is it so complicated? Well, she says, influenza is an RNA virus that is segmented. So each gene has its own segment. That means in can recombine it unpredictable ways. Furthermore, there's something called "virus drift," with an error-prone polymerase. This equates to a genetic drift. The endless possible combinations are mostly not a problem for humans, but those that do spillover cause the bird flus that are so deadly. She also explains the nomenclature of the different strains, why the flu vaccine can help keep you out of the hospital, and more.  For more good influenza resources, she suggests the CDC section on flu, the WHO pages that address the data, and Trevor Bedford's site at Fred Hutch. Her lab's website also provides information. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Early in his studies, Nils Pilotte realized he wanted to pursue research with direct human applications and neglected tropical diseases fit that bill. This podcast explores this sorely-needed research and ways scientists like Nils Pilotte are making a difference. Listen and learn How soil-transmitted helminths steal nutrition from their human host, How Lymphatic filariases position themselves to block the lymphatic system, causing damaging elephantiasis, and What exciting molecular diagnostic techniques are in the works, like testing mosquito feces rather than mosquitos themselves. Nils Pilotte is a postdoctoral researcher with the Williams' Lab at Smith College. He works primarily in diagnostic methods in parasitology and focuses on filarial worms and soil-transmitted helminths diagnosis in particular. These worms cause devastating health issues in underserved communities and he works not only to eradicate infestations now but also prevent future resurgences. He gives the podcast audience a solid background on how both soil-transmitted helminths and filarial worms, which are transmitted by insect vectors, progress through life cycles via complex host relationships. Filarial worms, for example, must utilize two animal hosts to realize their adult reproduction stage. He treats listeners with his enthusiasm for studying this coevolution, speculating on the amazing science behind their adaptations. But this coevolution is more than just interesting. Researching the signaling between pathogen and host is key to developing methods for diagnosis of parasitic infections. "Cross-talk" is a phrase scientists use for this exchange. Because parasites developed clever ways to disguise themselves, understanding this cross-talk is at the forefront of understanding pathogenicity. Dr. Pilotte addresses various ways they are looking at this signaling that might aid better diagnostics. He also addresses ways he and others work to make diagnostics less expensive and more accessible. For example, he's working on a method to increase their testing of mosquito infection by testing their excreta, or feces, for the presence of pathogen material. It's much easier and simpler to collect the mosquito feces than the mosquitoes themselves. Listen in for more smart advances scientists are using to make the world healthier.  For more about Nils Pilotte, see his researchgate page or search for him in Google scholar.  Available on Apple Podcasts:
Parasites are a neglected area of medicine and Rick Maizels is working to change that. But his research also lends surprising findings in the human immune response to parasites: allergy relief. With Professor Maizels' accessible language and explanations, this podcast explores an exciting step forward in both parasitology and allergy research. Listen and learn  What his "proof principal" studies on intestinal tract parasites has shown regarding response to dust mites and other asthma-producing allergens, How the "good cop" of the immune response, the regulatory T-cell, is affected by a protein product released by hookworms, and What are other exciting therapeutics possible from parasitology research such as wound healing and hookworm vaccines.  Rick Maizels is a professor of parasitology at the University of Glasgow and gives listeners a clear lesson in the latest science of parasite research. He leads listeners into the complex interchanges of cellular and molecular immunology to explain how parasites have the ability to dampen our immune system in ways that are sometimes beneficial for us. He explains that parasites are a neglected area of medicine because they tend to infect the poorest parts of the world. Unfortunately, past research money and efforts have gone to the needs of wealthier world communities. But parasitologists are working hard to change that. As they increased this research, they noticed a reciprocal relationship between the prevalence of helminths and allergies. In other words, helminths presence is inversely related to the presence of allergies, as if parasites dampen "diseases of modernity." Professor Maizels explains this in more detail and says there's a common theme: it involves the "good cop" of the immune cell—the regulatory T-cell. The regulatory T-cell makes sure that the immune response doesn't go into overdrive or start attacking innocuous materials like the dust mite. It turns out that the parasite can affect the host gene expression in human body with products it releases. For example, the hookworm release a protein that binds to the T-cell, instructing it to make more. The overall effect is to dampen the immune system. He discusses more studies along these lines and the effect on conditions like ulcerative colitis and celiac disease. They've also found some parasites have wound healing properties, healing and preventing infections in their entry point into the host. Harnessing these findings can address parasitic infections in poorer communities and offer therapeutics like vaccines to work for immunity against helminths. Listen in to learn about additional exciting discoveries. For more see, Professor Maizels' lab website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Can researchers better utilize our cellular powerhouses to fight infection? Yes, according to this podcast, but it's all about timing and balance. James Phelan's research into when cells utilize glycolysis and what that might achieve for infectious diseases has turned the cancer field on its head. Listen in to learn about metabolic pathway research that has therapeutic-changing potential. He addresses How he characterized cellular metabolism along the sequence from Barrett's esophagus to esophageal cancer, Why the discovery of cells primarily using glycolysis for energy at a key point in the disease progression was a major finding, and How this finding translated to tuberculosis (TB) research and a way to fight infection in its early stages. James J. Phelan is a postdoctoral research fellow at Trinity College in Dublin. He spent most of his PhD work developing an expertise in cellular metabolism, specifically in the context of esophageal cancer. He explains how he carefully examined the metabolic pathways accompanying the progression from Barrett's esophagus to cancer of the esophagus. Barrett's esophagus, or intestinal metaplasia, indicates a distortion of cells and is the biggest risk factor for esophageal cancer. He found that as patients progress from this inflammatory esophageal condition to cancer, their cells use an aggressive form of metabolism called glycolysis, which involves a higher flux of cytokines and chemokines, both damaging to tissue. In other words, glycolysis is a cancer-specific form of metabolism. He brought this findings into the infectious disease and immunology field and found that glycolysis has a contrasting role in an infectious disease context. However, it started with a similarity: as with cancer patients, infectious disease patients are burdened with high inflammation. The goal of therapeutics is to reduce inflammation, particularly with TB, one of his specialties. Here's where it gets tricky and innovative: if glycolysis as the main metabolic pathway is turned on early for TB, it will help eradicate the infection. They've found an iron binder in clinical trials for COVID-19 that can turn on glycolysis in macrophages infected with TB and clear the infection. By using this compound, they can switch on glycolysis and turn on cytokines, which are actually very harmful in the late stage of TB. But in the early stage, they are curative. He explains this surprising finding in more detail as well as therapeutic possibilities such as in vaccinations and other ways this research may help inform vaccines and the immune response. For more, see his website at Trinity College. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Curious about the pandemic's impact on the housing finance system? This podcast has the answers. Richard Koss takes listeners through every element, translating the global housing watch into an understandable format. Listeners will learn How his company puts large housing market data sets online for the sake of transparency, How the cyclical and structural elements of the housing market responded to the pandemic, and What he sees in the next six months regarding real estate and the importance of emerging markets and world finances. Richard Koss is the Chief Research Officer at Recursion, a company in the big data mortgage finance field. They take enormous data sets related to the mortgage market and place that data in the cloud. Then, as part of what they call "data democratization," they provide digital tools that allow interested users to access that data to supplement policy or inform trading practices or research strategies. He says the lack of transparency before 2008 was part of the problem that lead to the global financial crisis. The importance of housing finance transparency was not lost on Recursion's founders.  As a data expert, he's also in a great position to help listeners get a handle on today's housing market and better understand the economics of global housing solutions. He explains in clear and accessible language what the market has looked like since March in structural and cyclical terms, addressing the labor and housing struggles. He explains that housing trends look a little like the 60s—we're seeing flight out of the city into the suburbs and exurbs. The big question is how long this will persist. He tells listeners what predictions the banks, big companies, and financial lenders are betting on but gives enough information to help listeners come to their own conclusions. Listen in for some great insights into current directions of housing markets. For more about his company and their take on housing markets, see Available on Apple Podcasts:
“Nothing replicates with nucleic acid and evolves through natural selection and is not alive, so I think it’s time for viruses to join the pantheon of life,” says Dr. White, bringing a fresh perspective to the topic of whether viruses should be considered living or nonliving. Press play to learn why he says viruses are “perfect” parasites, and to explore the following: How viruses get sick Who's winning the battle against multidrug-resistant organisms, and the critical role viruses play What allows a virus to transfer genetic information without replicating itself In what way phages have exhibited protective mechanisms for the host and interact with the host immune response Dr. Richard Allen White III is a virologist and the owner of Raw Molecular Systems (RMS), LLC. His current work is focused on diagnostics and biotherapeutics to combat COVID-19, as well as repurposing bacteriophage to tackle multidrug resistance. He provides unique insight on a handful of compelling questions about viruses, which leads to a discussion of how viruses take over the host’s macrophages and trigger cell-to-cell infection, a phage Vibrio that’s triggered by a quorum-sensing molecule, viral modification and what it means, virus and host cell interactions, viral evolution and how a virus changes over time, viral tropism, current treatments for the rabies virus, how viruses hold the key to wiping out the growing threat of multidrug-resistant organisms, and more. Tune in, and learn about Dr. White’s company by visiting Available on Apple Podcasts:
Tiny microbes make a huge difference in our health. These internal ecological systems utilize communication or signaling to maintain this health, effecting immune system function. This podcast shares an important discovery in this communication that influences receptivity to cancer treatment. Listen and learn How scientists knew the human microbiome influences cancer immunotherapy, but couldn't identify a key player in this mucosal immunology impact factor, What study Dr. McCoy put into play to identify this player in the immune system of the human body, and What steps they might now be able to take to harness the power of the microbiome and translate it to therapies.  Dr. Kathy McCoy is a professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Calgary and the director of the International Microbiome Centre. Her research is focused on interactions between the microbiome and immune system and she shares an exciting just-published study that presents a key finding in cancer treatment. Specifically, her research asked how gut microbes play a rule in influencing or regulating the efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade therapy or cancer immunotherapy. She says that scientists have known for a few years that our microbiome is associated with immunotherapy success or lack thereof, but needed more information to make a difference in treatment.  Here's the big idea behind her findings: while researchers have known there's a microbial immune conversation, they now know that it's a three-way conversation rather than a two-way conversation. In addition to the microbes and immune system players, metabolites sent out by microbes have a say; furthermore, this conversation gets enhanced by cancer immunotherapy. More specifically, they found that one of these metabolites, inosine, binds to a receptor present on T-cells and causes a signal transduction cascade that makes that T-cell turn on an anti-tumor response—it makes the cytokines necessary to attack cancer cells. If a patient doesn't have this metabolite, the immunotherapy may not work as well. The hope is researchers can figure out how to encourage this metabolite in patients. Listen in for more details about this study and about its life-changing implications. For more, see her lab website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Curious about science's latest effort to reverse aging? This podcast describes attainable treatments and the science behind theses gene therapy processes: Elizabeth Parrish discusses BioViva's anti-aging gene therapy products and research. Even better, she brings a different perspective—she has had viral vector gene therapy herself. Listen and learn The specifics behind four of their gene therapies, including how they work and what they accomplish; The process for getting gene therapy, from medications taken beforehand to what happens at the clinic; and The scientific explanation of the viral vector delivery method and how the therapy lengthens telomeres in our cells. Elizabeth Parrish is a returning guest and CEO of BioViva, a leader in health regenerative gene therapy. She takes listeners on a tour of anti-aging science, offering interesting and intelligent descriptions of available therapies and exciting future treatments in the works. She begins by describing four specific therapies BioViva offers through Integrated Health Systems: telomerase gene-inducement, myostatin inhibitors, mitochondrial improvement, and klotho gene therapy. Respectively, these address anti-aging, muscle growth, energy production, and organ systems and dementia issues. The process for how they accomplish these therapies is better than science fiction. Essentially, they use a viral vector that has had its pathogenesis removed. They fill this vector with the gene therapy and a promotor, which regulates the amount of gene delivered. These therapies are introduced into the body through various ways, but most frequently through an IV drip. She adds that clients will need to take an immune suppressant before and after this therapy, though usually it is on the milder side and tends to be prednisone or something similar. What really makes this interview interesting is Elizabeth's ability to explain how the biology behind this therapy works, why telomere length makes a difference, and how this turns on health-inducing genes without actually changing a person's DNA. In other words, it's not genetic engineering for extending life spans, it's gene therapy for enhancing and strengthening what the body already has. For more about the company, see Available on Apple Podcasts:
This podcast offers insight into how scientists keep our best animal friends safe, and in turn, their human companions. Because humans can get parasites from dogs and other animals, we are part of this equation. Italian scientist Domico Otranto teaches listeners What common parasitic diseases are of concern in the Mediterranean, Which of these have the potential to or have already become parasitic diseases in humans, and What research works best in parasitology to predict patterns and the spread potential of parasitic diseases. Domenico Otranto (DVM, PhD, Diplomate EVPC, FRES) is a full professor of Animal Parasitic Diseases in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Bari in southern Italy. While he mainly works on parasites of zoonotic concern, he also concentrates on when these become human parasitic diseases. This means he studies vector-born diseases that transmit pathogens to vertebrate hosts. Such vectors include flies, ticks, and other bugs and worms that feed on the host and transmit these pathogenic parasites. They often have primary and secondary hosts. Such parasites present a particular problem in Mediterranean regions because of the climate.  He has a special focus on leashmania, which is transmitted through sand flies. Dogs are the main host for leishmania, but it can also infect cats, rodents, and humans. He explains the challenges to fighting this parasite and explains why prevention of sand fly biting is actually the best approach. Furthermore, controlling it in dogs is an important step in preventing it in humans. Finally, he places these concerns in a socio economic context. Parasitic diseases are more typically problematic in the poorest countries. Therefore, his work is inspired by a social commitment to improve the quality of life and health in these areas.  Available on Apple Podcasts:
Comments (8)

Soumen Sengupta

Such an awesome Podcast. Heard it thrice back to back. Great job....Kudos.

Oct 20th



Aug 31st

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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