Archives for November, 2010

Using the immune system to fight cancer

Cancer sucks. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that – it’s one of the leading causes of death in developed countries, and our treatment options are pretty thin. Basically, it amounts to cutting out the tumors that can be seen, and then giving a controlled administration of poison in the hopes that the…

Our Microbial Organ

Did you know that bacteria make up 90% of the cells in your body? That they make up ~5% of your mass? That they colonize you at the moment of birth and are different if you were born via c-section than if you were born naturally? All this and more in the SITN production, “Our…

Bioluminescince is amazing. I have seen it first hand barely noticeably in the wake of a ship at night, from a laboratory culture in a large flask, filling a Puerto Rican bay such that every fish darting or rain drop falling glows blue, and most recently in a 2 hour light show viewed through the…

Weekend Review: Sterile Inflammation

If you’ve ever rolled your ankle (as I have many times), you have a visceral knowledge of inflammation. Clinically, inflammation is the redness, swelling, heat and pain that’s associated with injury. From an immunologist’s perspective, it’s the set of molecular events that get the immune system going. All of the clinical systems associated with inflammation…

On Definitions: They Matter

Most of my favorite long-standing discussions with friends and family tend to resolve around definitions. My good friend Paul and I have had hours upon hours of discussion about the nature of the universe – he calls his perception of the order of the universe “god,” and I call myself an atheist (interestingly, that picture…

Saturday Review: The Inflammasome!

This week, I’m going to take a break from vaccines and do some innate immunity. Today’s topic: the provocatively named “Inflammasome.” This Nature Review from last month focused on inflammasomes and anti-viral immunity, but I think the inflammasome itself needs its own post. A breakthrough in our understanding of the mechanisms that control the activation…

Problem Solving Bacteria

This is just awesome: A strain of Escherichia coli bacteria can now solve [sudoku] puzzles [...] “Because sudoku has simple rules, we felt that maybe bacteria could solve it for us, as long as we designed a circuit for them to follow,” says team leader Ryo Taniuchi. The mechanism is ingenious and yet straightforward at…

Last SITN lecture: Tonight!

The last lecture of the Science in the News Fall lecture series is tonight at 7pm in the Armenise amphitheater. Star Power: New Ways to Harvest Energy From Our Sun I heard great reviews from people who were at the practice talk, so if you’re in the Boston area and interested in alternative energy, come…

Saturday Review: Oral Vaccines

Last week, I talked about strategies to improve vaccine efficacy and safety. Most of those strategies were in the context of standard, inject-into-your-arm vaccines, but what about totally new delivery methods? This week, there was a review in PLoS Pathogens of strategies for generating vaccines that you can swallow: Enhancing Oral Vaccine Potency by Targeting…

Weight loss and macrophages

Macrophages are really good at gobbling stuff up. It’s all right there in the name – they are big (macro) eaters (phage). I study them in the context of the immune system – one of the things they do really well is eat up bacteria and other pathogens that have found their way into your…