Sandra Porter, Austin Community College and Digital World Biology LLC, Seattle, WA
Our bioinformatics course at Austin Community College focuses on basic concepts and techniques. Students learn how to search databases, use molecular models, apply sequence analysis tools, and characterize genetic variation. Although bioinformatics provides us with interesting real-life examples to study, our abilities are limited when it comes to finding student projects that include opportunities to make new discoveries. We don’t have a lab and we’re not able to generate our own data, so we rely ... Read more
When my parents were young, summer made cities a scary place for young families. My mother tells me children were often sent away from their homes to relatives in the country, if possible, and swimming pools were definitely off limits. The disease they feared, poliomyelitis, and the havoc it wrecked were the stuff of nightmares. Children could wake up with a headache and end up a few hours later, in an iron lung, struggling to breathe.
Over 55,000 people die each year from rabies, a disease that is 100% preventable, according to Dr. Guy Palmer, who spoke last night at the University of Washington. Dr. Palmer is from the School for Global Animal Health, a group that works towards improving global health through advancing preventative care for both humans and animals. One of the preventative measures is through rabies vaccination.
One of the holy grails of modern medicine is the development of a vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes AIDs. An obstacle to attaining this goal has been the difficulty in stimulating the immune system to make it produce the right kinds of antibodies. A recent finding in Science describes a gene that controls production of these antibodies and may provide insights to the development of an effective vaccine. (1).
Antibodies are special kinds of proteins that bind to things, often very tightly. If they bind to the right molecules, they can prevent viruses from infecting ... Read more
Let's play anomaly!
Most of this week, I've written about the fun time I had playing around with NCBI's Blink database and finding evidence that at least one mosquito, Aedes aegypti, seems to have been infected at some point with a plant paramyxovirus and that the paramyxovirus left one of its genes behind, stuck in the mosquito genome.
During this process, I realized that the method I used works with other viruses, too. I tried it with a few random viruses and sure enough, I found some interesting things.
You've got a week to give it a try. Let's see ... Read more
Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to respond to a specific thing. Most of the vaccines we use are designed to prime the immune system so that it's ready to fight off some kind of disease, like whooping cough, polio, or influenza. Some vaccines can have more specialized functions, like stimulating the body to attack cancer cells, kill rogue autoimmune cells, or prevent pregnancy. We'll look at what they do in later posts, for now, let's look at the kinds of things that can be used as vaccines.
Have you ever wondered what kinds of viruses can be found in human waste?
Mya Breitbart and team have been sequencing nucleic acids from fecal samples in order to find out. You might expect that we'd find viruses that infect humans or viruses that infect the bacteria in our gut.
I wouldn't have expected to learn the result that they found.
A large number, 60% of the viral DNA sequences were from unknown viruses. That's not a surprise. The surprise came when they looked at the RNA viruses.
Instead, the viral sequences most often came from a plant pathogen ... Read more