viruses

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.

In 1925, dogsledders raced through the frozen Alaskan bush to bring antiserum to the isolated village of Nome.  The antiserum arrived in time, saved the lives of many villagers from the horrors of diphtheria, and inspired the Iditarod, a famous race in celebration of the dog sledders' heroic feat. West Africa could use a similar effort today.  Richard Harris's blog at NPR has a good story about doctors' efforts to develop and use antiserum to treat Ebola.  According ... Read more

Nick's post on Amantadine resistance in swine flu was so interesting, I had to look at the protein structures myself.

I couldn't find any structures with the S31N mutation that Nick discussed, but I did find some structures with the M2 protein and Amantadine. Not only are these structures beautiful, but you can look at them and see how the protein works and how the drug prevents the protein from functioning.

As Nick mentions, the M2 protein from influenza ... Read more

No more delays! BLAST away!

Time to blast. Let's see what it means for sequences to be similar. 

First, we'll plan our experiment.  When I think about digital biology experiments, I organize the steps in the following way: 

           A.  Defining the question

B.  Making the data sets

           C.  Analyzing the data sets

D.  Interpreting the results

I'm going intersperse my results with a few instructions so ... Read more

We had a great discussion in the comments yesterday after I published my NJ trees from some of the flu sequences. If I list all the wonderful pieces of advice that readers shared, I wouldn't have any time to do the searches, but there are a few that I want to mention before getting down to work and posting my BLAST results. Here were some of the great suggestions and pieces of advice; 1. Do a BLAST search. Right! I can't believe I didn't do that first thing, I think the ... Read more
I'm teaching an on-line bioinformatics course this semester for Austin Community College. They are in Texas of course, but I am in Seattle. This presents a few interesting challenges and some minor moments of amusement. Today, the school sent all the faculty emails telling us to stay home if we're sick. Got it. If I think I have flu, I will not fly to Texas. Instead, I'll stay home and watch videos on coughing without contaminating others. Watch "Why don't we do it in our sleeves?" and find out how you rank on the safe coughing scale. ... Read more
This afternoon, I was working on educational activities and suddenly realized that the H1N1 strain that caused the California outbreak might be the same strain that caused an outbreak in 2007 at an Ohio country fair. UPDATE: I'm not so certain anymore that the strains are the same. I'm doing some work with nucleic acid sequences to look further at similarity. Here's the data. Once I realized that the genome sequences from the H1N1 swine flu were in the NCBI's virus genome resources database, I had to take a look. And, like eating potato chips, making ... Read more
That's how new life forms are created every day in the wild, folks. Human researchers of course have added a few twists on the theme. If we can't induce bacteria or animal cells to collect new bits of DNA on their own, we turn to electroshock therapy. With plants.... aw heck, we just shoot them. And where did this crazy rant come from you ask? Last Saturday morning, at the crack of 9 am I got to be interviewed on a radio program with two of the main spokespeople from the DIY bio movement, Mackenzie Cowell and Meredith Patterson. The program was "The Food Chain" (you can listen to it ... Read more
If you haven't seen these, check out Jake Young's collection of videos showing T cells getting infected by HIV. The best one is at the bottom of the post.Read more
Ebola virus has impressed me as creepy ever since I read "The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story some years back by Richard Preston. (I guess he has a new book, too, ... Read more

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