New Podcast – Going Supersonic in Making Therapeutics

supersonic

In this episode called “Going Supersonic in Making Therapeutics” I talked to a talented scientist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital named Dr. Wendy Pierce. She started her postdoctoral fellowship at St. Jude in looking at how proteins (including some in the Sonic Hedgehog pathway) function in developmental pathways and then transitioned to a project manager role for making therapeutics for brain tumors. We talk about both the science and a cool career path that aspiring scientists can take (science is full of those).

The list of terms are: Scientific Careers, Protein, Disorder, Cell Development, Crystallography, Medulloblastoma, Developmental Disorder, Drosophila, Chemical Biology, Bench to Bedside.

As always, the podcast can be found here
https://www.cure4kids.org/…/sites/teachers/plugins/page.php…

Also, congratulations on your beautiful new baby Wendy. We got the interview in right under the buzzer!

Cheers and wow, can’t believe it is March already!

Michae

New Podcast “Check Yo Genes Before You Wreck Yo Genes”

Straight Outta Biology Class

As you can see from the picture and title, I decided to go all in with the theme for this month, DNA repair. No big deal, just Nobel Prize winning material. In this February 2016 episode of Science Sound Bites with Dr. Cristel Camacho, a postdoctoral fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, we look at why DNA repair is important and how when the process malfunctions, it could have dire consequences, mainly cancer. Episode #17, “Check Yo Genes, Before You Wreck Yo Genes” can be found here at the cure4kids website (Thanks Kate!).

Feel free to send your email to sciencesoundbites@gmail.com to get email updates, or like us at Facebook at facebook.com/sciencesoundbites to get updates there.

Also, sorry for missing out on a new episode for January. December was a busy month of job searching but I am pleased to say that it was fruitful. Starting in July, I will be an Assistant Professor in Immunobiology at the University of Arizona (bring on the cacti!!).

Cheers, and have a good month.

Michael

State of the Scientific Union 2016: A New Hope

one does not simply

Science is as much about healing and understanding the world around us, as it is about giving people inspiration so they can whisper to themselves, “wow, anything is possible!”

Last year, I gave my first State of the Scientific Union Address. It was a rally cry to get scientist to communicate more with the public. It was a hope that scientists along with the public could sway the powers that be and inject much needed life lines to not only continue valuable research, but to also start studying new areas that will affect us in the future.

Along with many scientific organizations like AAAS and ASBMB, as well as more scientists engaging with the public through personal communication, blogs, and other social media, I think the tide is beginning to turn.

Recently, a bipartisan success story has injected 2 billion extra dollars into the NIH representing a more than 6% increase. This is significant! Especially considering since 2003, it has increased less than 12% (or less than 1% per year). If accounting for inflation, that “12%” increase is actually a 22% decrease (1, 2). This is crazy when you consider what the the NIH has done for human health and if you don’t care about people, here is what the NIH does for the economy.

This money represents a new hope, a new commitment, and a new conversation about the importance of biomedical research in this nation (sometimes optimism is a good thing to have). It represents good things for me as well such as a 41% increase since 2013 (and likely more to come) in my ability to get a new grant to fund my research as a new principal investigator my soon to be laboratory at the University of Arizona in Immunobiology where I will study new and novel ways to combat infectious diseases.

This money will support so many new initiatives in studying the black box between our ears (the brain), understanding how our DNA can prevent person A from getting sick, but not person B, and trying to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria (1,2). You can hear about some of these new directions from the Director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins talk about here in this Science Sound Bites Podcast Episode (episode 11).

The president wants us to cure cancer. While that claim might underestimate the magnitude tasks (there is not just one cancer), with advances like this one maybe we can convert the cells to something harmless. That discovery combined with new advances in epigenetic mapping of things that make us us, and a new tool called CRISPR (pronounced like crisper) becoming more main stream to study how genes (and the proteins they encode) work, we are gaining ground not only in the fight against cancer(s), but all diseases.

However, our work is not done and our fight is far from over. We as scientists must continue to keep open lines of communication with the community, adults and children. We want people to say “what if I cured…” and go on to cure it! We all must dream bigger and work together better. We as a people have made it this far, with more support, anything will be possible.

MDLJ

 

I Need a Weapon Stronger Than Facts (Debunking Bad Science)

tell me again about your scientific source

I’m tired people, I’m really tired. I’ve gone off about vaccines quite a few times, trying to convince people vaccines are safe and should be used (1,2,&3). Honestly it isn’t the writing about it that takes the time and makes you tired, nor is it the arguing. It is how it creeps into your head when you are idle. You find your mind drifting, how can these people really think that vaccines are hurting people. These days my mind drifts about a lot of what’s going on in the world, but that is a story for a different blog.

But really, what more can I say to them?

Misinformation spreads faster than the illnesses the vaccines are trying to curb. It’s like whack-a-mole. Toward the end of the game after you put your token in, three or four would go up at a time and only knew I had two hands (which was effectively one because the mallet was so big in my hands). Also, the payout was never good, what am I going to get with three tickets?!?! I really don’t need another plastic pirate eye patch.

Shaming doesn’t work, as it rarely does and you end up looking worse. News of outbreaks doesn’t work. Pictures of kids with the diseases don’t work. Speaking from my scientific background doesn’t work. Trolling their Facebook page doesn’t work. The facts generated by that data I give them are just no match for that friend of a friend of a friend. But this isn’t The Oracle of Bacon, this is real life where real sources should be used.

When it comes down to it, I need a weapon stronger than facts.

Because fighting for cures is one thing (races, vigils, and awareness ribbons are great), but it is exhausting fighting to even fight for the opportunity to find cures. It is exhausting fighting against the people who believe we have all the answers, but think we hold them to watch people die. It is exhausting fighting against people who reject the cures we find only to spread lies of what we do, which they know nothing of.

They argue to prove that the science is wrong with no understanding of the real problem. They do it to win. They do it to make scientists look dumb. They shift the argument to do so which makes it difficult for people who deal in facts and expressing trends of data to keep up. Here is a great example of that principle.

I fight to save lives. WE fight to saves lives. If I am preaching to the choir then the choir needs to SING LOUDER. I have seen the pictures of bad infections in the most vulnerable group. Children. Google the pictures if you dare. We can stop that, and MUCH more. No one needs that grief or heart break. Fighting the spread of misinformation takes away from fighting disease. People walk miles and miles for the help you openly refuse.

So what do we do? What is a weapon stronger than the truth?

Perhaps a different approach is needed versus an fact assault. We need to ask the questions, not try to answer them all. Maybe if they can realize that they don’t have the real answers, then they might seek the answers or the facts. Maybe it is possible to ask questions to give information.

So as a starting point, before truly engaging, ask a person,

“Are there a set of facts (or anything under the sun) that I could present to you that would change your mind?”

This has to be the first question, because if the answer is no, you need to be able to move on because it will be lost cause to engage. Your sanity might depend on it, otherwise you are back to playing whack-a-mole for another eye patch or worse yet, the back scratcher (some of those are more useless than candy corn, shots fired).

A reasonable person should say yes or at the very least they don’t know. If either, ask what it would take and hopefully then, you can at least have a discussion. At the very least, they might be open to it. Maybe the new heard immunity can be against those that refuse to even look or consider facts and continue to speak from ignorance. (Wait, am I still talking about just vaccines?)

MDLJ

New Science Sound Bites Podcast – MacGyvering Treatments for Infectious Diseases


urt7k

Hey Podcast Listeners,

That is a MacGyver reference from the Simpson’s, but honestly if only it was that easy to get out of some sticky situations. This point is especially relevant when it comes to situations involving human health. There are unfortunately many people, such as those in resource limited settings, who don’t have the luxury of great diagnostic tools to help determine disease type or progression so the question arises, what can be done to help those people? How do you prioritize disease A over disease B or worse, how do you choose to even look for disease A vs disease B? 

These are tough questions and for some insight into the matter, I turned to Dr. Sheena Mukkada, an Infectious Diseases Fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and episode 16 entitled “MacGyvering Treatments for Infectious Diseases.” Take a listen and learn about some of the steps being made internationally to protect human health. We also talk about different health degrees people can obtain and the uses they have in society.

https://www.cure4kids.org/ums/sites/teachers/plugins/page.php?id=19

List of Terms: Master’s in Public Health (MPH), Research Design, Infectious Diseases, Resource Limited Settings, Cancer, White Blood Cells, Immunocompromised, Diagnostic Tools, Blood Cultures, Bacterial Diversity, Antibiotic Resistance, Virus Pneumonia, Aerobic

Happy Holidays to all and remember to like the podcast on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sciencesoundbites

Michael

New Science Sound Bites – Cut the Cord and Keep It

Life can give you many things. Life can give you reasons to smile (even on a Monday morning). Life can give you lemons (and of course when this happens to a scientist, we turn it into an experiment by seeing if we can guess the pH of the juice by using size, color, etc. but I digress). For episode 15 of Science Sound Bites, I interviewed Dr. Suzanne Tomchuck on how life can give you more life! 

scissors_PNG25Here (https://www.cure4kids.org/ums/sites/teachers/plugins/page.php?id=19), you can learn about how the umbilical cord has many valuable cells that can be used to save someone’s life (a very similar manner to how bone marrow transplants work!). Take a listen to get details about some of the wonderful science behind this process. Also, for more information, check out https://bethematch.org/support-the-cause/donate-cord-blood/.

Also, if you have any topics you want to hear about for future podcast, let me know. No promises, but the scientific community is large and willing to share what they do. The goal is not necessarily to make career scientists, although if some are inspired, I am ecstatic. The goal is to make lifelong science appreciators because they truly have the potential to help find more cures in the future, just though their support. 

Here is the list of terms covered in the episode:

Bone Marrow Transplant

Research and Clinical Research

Cord Blood Transplant

Blood Disorders

Cells

Cancer

Umbilical Cord Blood

Matching HLA (Human leukocyte antigen) Types

Proteins

Immune System

Immuno-Competent 

Immuno-Compromised

Engraftment

Chemotherapy

Fighting Infection

T Cells

Innate Immune Response

Natural Killer Cells

Specific Immune Response

Stem Cells

Cheers,

Michael

Death By Journalism: Lives Over Clicks?

do-you-even-science-meme

When I opened up the Facebook app in the terminal of RDU on my way back home to Memphis, I wanted to shout. I was angry. I was disappointed. I could see the troubling situation unfolding and just knew there would be nothing or no one that could stop it short of the article being edited or taken down all together. The story had been broken several days prior, a nurse reused the same syringe (NOT needle) on almost 70 people while giving the flu vaccine. Now, I think we can all agree that this person should be punished. That is a clear violation of protocol. Many outlets said the people will be tested for infectious diseases such as HIV and the various forms of hepatitis, but one source which I will not even give the clicks to anymore had on their Facebook lead in:

“As many as 67 people got a flu shot…but now they might have HIV or hepatitis.”

On this news Facebook page, you could see things being shared in the twenties and hundreds for a larger story. This header though was close to 8000 and last I saw, it was still growing rapidly. What many people see when they read that lead in and share it with their friends is that flu shots lead to HIV or hepatitis, which just in case, it totally wrong in every way, shape, and form. Yes people should read, but that is exactly the message this news source wanted people to have by that title. Clickbait at its worse.

Congratulations, your clicks are going to cost people their lives.

Someone in that 8000 shares and many more views will be someone’s grandmother who is slightly immuocompromised, but not bad enough to not get the vaccine. But grandma won’t get the shot or the mist. She won’t get it because she doesn’t want to get “the AIDS” as she calls it. Grandma might get flu and with declining health, you pray that won’t be the final straw.

Someone in that 8000 shares and many more views will be someone’s child that won’t get a flu vaccination and will get the flu. The child will 99.999% survive, but Mom and Dad had to miss a lot of work, including that shift that might pay for Santa’s gifts, or worse yet, dinner because poverty is alive and well.

Someone in that 8000 shares and many more views will be someone else’s child who did not get any vaccinations because their parents think in general, that other vaccines lead to HIV. This unfortunate child might get another easily preventable disease or cause an immuocompromised kid that can’t mount an immune response to get really sick.

These scenarios are made up of course, but the comments to the post make what I am writing very likely possibilities. You can sensationalize celebrity gossip with who is dating who, or by saying look at “this pretty celebrity looking great on the red carpet”, but when you mess with science, you mess with real people’s lives.

Unfortunately, there will always be someone after clicks. We need to be better educated, read things before we share them, and call a spade a spade. #SPEAKUPSCIENTISTS and EVERYONE else. We also need to know that VACCINES SAVE LIVES!! But more to my point, respected news outlets, specifically the local ones, need to have more integrity than that.

MDLJ