A post at last ...

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchThe scientific life is an interesting one. You work like a dog and have little to show for it. Nothing works and you don't have a clue why that is. Then one day you get that first result. You are happy, but a voice in the back of your head is telling you that this might be another dead end, another artifact. You cautiously proceed. Slowly the data accumulates. One day you put the pieces of the puzzle together. You test your idea, and it works! You're in a grove. Everything (or nearly everything) works. You ride that wave. You don't want to be distracted. Then your backup project starts to produce data. Wow! And then ... it's the holidays.

I've killed off all my cell lines. I gave up on that last gel. I snapped my last micrographs and now I'm returning to my neglected blog.

I've had so much to write about in the last month, but just no time. I saw a great talk by Judah Folkman (if he doesn't get the Nobel soon, that will count as a genuine crime). I saw an incredible talk by Michael Overholtzer from the Brugge Lab on Entosis (cells eating eachother) and its potential role in cancer and development (see the Nov 30th cover of Cell). And there is this incredible study from the very last issue of Cell:

Semen-Derived Amyloid Fibrils Drastically Enhance HIV Infection

Sexual intercourse is the major route of HIV transmission. To identify endogenous factors that affect the efficiency of sexual viral transmission, we screened a complex peptide/protein library derived from human semen. We show that naturally occurring fragments of the abundant semen marker prostatic acidic phosphatase (PAP) form amyloid fibrils. These fibrils, termed Semen-derived Enhancer of Virus Infection (SEVI), capture HIV virions and promote their attachment to target cells, thereby enhancing the infectious virus titer by several orders of magnitude. Physiological concentrations of SEVI amplified HIV infection of T cells, macrophages, ex vivo human tonsillar tissues, and transgenic rats in vivo, as well as trans-HIV infection of T cells by dendritic or epithelial cells. Amyloidogenic PAP fragments are abundant in seminal fluid and boost semen-mediated enhancement of HIV infection. Thus, they may play an important role in sexual transmission of HIV and could represent new targets for its prevention.

Yes that's right. A peptide fragment from a phosphatase found in semen forms fibrils and potentiates HIV infection. In fact the peptide increases in infectivity (in vitro) by several ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE. That is a major finding ...

(BTW Did anyone notice that Cell has added user comments? That's great!)

There was also that piece by Dennis Overbye in Tuesday's Science Times - I have some problems with the ideas expressed but mostly I wanted to point out how out of touch theoretical physicists are with the general endeavour of science. I also wanted to point out how Godel's theorem undermines all their notions about how the world is a mathematical construct. Godel's theorem demonstrates that logic (and math) is a tool that can be used to understand the world around us, but that tool can be broken. But I won't get into this topic here. (Read this book instead!)

Tonight the Rapoport lab will head out into the blizzard to celebrate the holidays, and all our accomplishments for this past year ... including many groundbreaking publications. We'll also be celebrating a good friend's 40th birthday. Tomorrow Jenni and I will off to the great white north to be with my family up in snowy Montreal.

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Well, I guess I'd comment if I could read the paper in the first place....

You work like a dog and have little to show for it. Nothing works and you don't have a clue why that is.

That sounds like a good summation of the average writer's life, too. (if I do say so myself)

By John Farrell (not verified) on 20 Dec 2007 #permalink

The photo isn't very clear, but I think that's the lakefill. So that must be Northwestern University.

By Bayesian Bouff… (not verified) on 21 Dec 2007 #permalink

Hofstader's GEB certainly was a tasty book. From my understanding, I think Godel's incompleteness theorems remind us that we don't know exactly what we think we know but they don't bring down everything that we use to make sense of the world.
By the way his recent book "I am a Strange Loop" was a little disappointing. Trying to explain consciousness is a mighty tall order.

JC,

Yeah I read Hofstader's latest book and gave up about half-way. Oh well ...