Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday Micro: Viruses Save Us from Evil Bacteria

Viruses are probably the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. Ask someone on the street what a virus is, what a virus does-- and theyll universally say "Viruses make us sick."

UGH! Not ALL of them! Bacteria have better PR. More people know that there are good bacteria that live in your digestive tract, eyes, skin, etc and keep us healthy and keep the yeast out of our vaginae. Well viruses do similar things! There are viruses called 'phages' whos natural habitat is your digestive tract (no, youre not special, theyre in all mammals' digestive tracts) that kill bad E. coli. You know, those 'bad' E. coli that were in the news a while back, hiding in spinach? That 'bad' E. coli that makes you poop all over the place when you drink the water in Mexico? The 'bad' E. coli that kills a few million kids a year.

Phages are the sweet lunar-lander viruses:

Sweet. Anyway, they only effect bacteria. They dont hurt you. Theyre a natural part of your bodys ecosystem. Hmm. Can we use these 'phage' things to our advantage? Can we use phages to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria??

Yes! Heres a nice little review I found, and its available free online!
'Phage therapy: the Escherichia coli experience'

I like this review because it covers the basics that any scientist or lay person would want to know:
1. Why do we want to use phages as antibacterials?
2. Is phage therapy safe?
3. What organisms have we tried phage therapy on? Humans? What happened?
4. What are the pharmacokinetics of phage therapies?
5. Will the phages hurt 'good' bacteria? I dont want an itchy vagina.
6. Why wont bacteria just develop resistance to phages, just like they did to our antibiotics?

Its an old idea, but its been gaining ground again lately because of the emergence of so many bacteria strains that are resistant to antibiotics. Resistant and deadly. Cant wait to see what we can do to a 70 year old idea with the molecular genetic technology of today!

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Sane Persons Guide to Creationism – Apollos Chariot

Too often, normal, sane people don’t think they can speak up when confronted with Creationism in every day life. Aunt Polly says something that just doesn’t sound right. Billys teacher says something fishy. But Sane Person doesn’t feel they have the ability to stand up against Creationist behavior because they don’t have a PhD in biology. Luckily, all you need is common sense.

I got to see Richard Dawkins presentation on ‘The God Delusion’ on CSPAN2 this weekend. The Liberty University kids thought it would be cute to bum-rush him, but alas, theyre retarded, and Dawkins patiently trounced them with classical British manners. But I think he missed one big point, and its one of my favorites—Apollos Chariot.

Huh? There are Greek Creationists too? No, but modern Creationists are using similar logic regarding various topics, and I think its an effective example for the silliness of a Creationists prized argument: “Well how does evolution explain ____????” Insert whatever you want in the blank. Consciousness. Altruism. ‘Morals.’ Origin of life. Origin of the Universe. Eyes. Immune systems. Whatever gap in our current knowledge some Creationist thinks he/she cleverly discovered.

Lets pick one—How about, “How does evolution explain the origin of life????” Well, weve got some ideas, but we don’t know what happened for sure on Earth 4.5 billion years ago. “AH HA!” says Creationist “Well how do you KNOW my god didn’t do it then???” Easy. When has a supernatural explanation been right? Thor doesn’t control lightning. Mental illness isn’t caused by demons. Miscarriages aren’t caused by witches’ hexes. The sun isn’t pulled across the sky by Apollos chariot.

Making up supernatural explanations for natural phenomena is what ancient civilizations do. They didn’t have the technology, they didn’t have the math, they didn’t have the foundation to understand what caused lightning, mental illness, miscarriages, or why the sun appears to move across the sky. Humanity has worked hard to improve chemistry, physics, biology, and medicine over the course of our history. Pathetic, to think weve made it this far, only to give up at ‘our eye.’ Why should we give up? When has the supernatural explanation been the right answer? When has giving up been the right action?

Never.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Election 2006

November 2, 2004 was one of the worst days of my life. Im a cynical optimist, but I let myself get my hopes up that wed get rid of the Retard Death Squad. Fucking PA-- the race was supposed to be neck-in-neck there, and Kerry blew Bush out of the water.... I thought we were going to win.

I drank a LOT of rum and ate a LOT of gummi bears that night.

And I think everyone in the biology department had depression for at least a month.

**sigh**

So Im trying SOOOOOOOO hard not to get my hopes up again. Know whats not helping? This fucking site. Electoral-Vote got my hopes up in 2004 and they were dead wrong. Now what are they projecting? Dems taking the Senate, Dems killing in the House. Ive heard the 'algorithms' have been improved, whatever the hell that means, but its still getting my hopes up, and I know Im going to get crushed again, because Americans are idiots....

Ugh I cant take this shit every two years for the rest of my life!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I Guess its Official: God Hates Fundies

I am a lucky, lucky little bitch. I grew up under very anti-girl-growing-up-to-be-a-scientist conditions, yet because I had wonderfully supportive family, friends, teachers, etc, I have grown up to be just that. Im healthy, have a well paying job, bright future... and Im an atheist. I love to tease the anti-female Islamic posters on a message board I frequent that their god has a boner for me. Seriously- If their god exists, it obviously doesnt give a crap that I dont believe in it. It doesnt care that I dont pray to it every night. It doesnt care that I do a LOT of stuff that its holy book forbids. It looks like he LIKES the fact Im playing hard-to-get-atheist.

Their response is normally along the lines of "Sure you think your life is great now, but OOOOOOOOOONE DAAAAAAAAAY your going to be begging our god for help." Awwwwww I love those loving gods! The ones that arent happy unless your groveling at their feet. But theres just one problem. It doesnt seem the True Believers are any better at holding back their gods wrath than I have been:
Kent Hovind is going to jail for a really long time.
Ann Coulter is being charged with felony voter fraud.
Ted Haggard is just a meth snorting hypocritical fag. (and I hope he shoots himself in the head)

Yup. Im sure gonna run to some god begging for something. He sure watches out for his own!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

In Honor of Haggard: PERVs

PERVs: Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses. hehehehe

This months Journal of Virology has a cool article on pigs version of HERVs:

Porcine endogenous retrovirus integration sites in the human genome: features in common with those of murine leukemia virus.

Im sure its not news to you, but theres an organ shortage in the US. And since George W wont let us clone humans just to harvest their organs (lol!), we have to look other places. Technically our closest primate relatives would be a good choice, but people (including me) think its weird to harvest their organs too. Turns out pigs arent a bad choice! Unless youre Jewish or Muslim... Anyway, even after creating transgenic organs in pigs (pig organ that expresses human proteins, so its less likely to be rejected), there are still more obstacles to cross before they can be a viable solution. One obstacle? PERVs.

PERVs (and ERVs in general in other organisms) are more active than our HERVs. You cant just put a pig liver in someone who is immunocompromised and not expect the 50 identified PERVs to start infecting other cells. Now pig PERvs dont hurt pigs, and human HERVs dont hurt humans... but what if you put a PERV in a human? Its not an ERV anymore-- its a retrovirus. Where is it going to land in the human genome?

These researchers found that when you put PERVS in human cells, they like to insert themselves near transcriptional start sites (right in front of a gene). Just like murine leukemia viruses. Like the MLV that was used in the disastrous gene therapy trials that gave some kids leukemia. Ugh. Crap.

As always, we have 'further avenues of research.'

Better than Pinkeye...

... But not better than Worcestershire sauce zombies.

The 'big' 'South Park' episode on 'atheism' was on last night. Looks like we get a part two too.

Meh, there were a couple good jokes-- Ms Garrisons description of evolution had me ROLFing. And some of the sticks to atheism were funny. Like when Dawkins had a crush on Ms Garrison, but wouldnt fuck her unless she was an atheist. Damn straight I wont fuck a theist! LOL Gawd gross! And saying 'Oh Science!' instead of 'Oh God!' was kinda funny. OH! And when Stan got put in the corner with a dunce cap that said 'I have faith'. hehehehe

I thought it was more funny that SP was trying so hard to have a 'big atheism show', but the best they could do was pull 'LOOK! SCIENCE IS A RELIGION!' and 'IF PEOPLE DIDNT KILL OVER RELIGION THEYD KILL OVER SOMETHING ELSE!'

**shrug**

Again, I could have written a better episode.

Whats REALLY funny about this episode is that the tards at Uncommon Descent were Super Excited about DAWKINS finally getting what he deserves! YEAH! They had him doing Ms Garrison! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh wait, Dawkins is really married to a hot, intelligent actress.

And whos really getting what he deserves is Ted Haggerd of 'Root of Evil' and 'Jesus Camp' infamy. He has allegedly been fucking dudes and shooting meth while encouraging his flock to hate gay people. There should be a word for this sort of thing. It happens so often.