Tag Archives: graduate student

You are what you eat; exceptions to the rules

This chestnut will appeal to the vegetarians. But we should all be aware. It turns out that when your mom told you that you are what you eat, it was more literally true than she probably believed.

Generally, what you eat gets broken down to rather small molecular bits, then built back up into the stuff that you are made of. Despite the fact that both cows and humans have hemoglobin, we don’t just use theirs. When we eat beef, we break down all the cow protein (including hemoglobin) and then build our hemoglobin from the bits.

There are some exceptions, it seems. As covered in a short news piece by Science, the article published in PNAS details the results of a trio of researchers who dosed themselves with pig-gland extract in order to show that a a sialic acid called Neu5Gc (made by pigs but not people) ends up in human tissue.

Since this molecule tends to attract the attention of the immune system, that’s probably a bad thing.

The Big Upshot for today is this: in biology (and in medicine) there are always exceptions.


New generation of drugs, and the next things for TBU

Occasionally, I get asked what I do. Here’s a little introduction to the kind of technology I’m working with. Aptamers are short bits of DNA that bind to whatever target of interest you might be interested in. Why is that useful?

Here’s one good reason, from a TED talk by Kary Mullis. He won the Nobel prize for inventing PCR. Now he is making aptamers that act like the tape on a big note on a bacterium’s back that say “EAT ME” to the immune system.

I’m going to take the Big Upshot in a new direction. From here on out, I’ll be doing my best to make posts relevant to current and future medical students and biomedical graduate students. We’re going to talk about the periphery of a scientific education that might otherwise get missed.


the next month's topic, stress, personal life, and a strange article about biomimetics

Dear kind reader,

Thank you for being here. This is a strange time in the life of your host, myself, Peter. I am trying to get the last data for my dissertation. I have 21 days, if I include today which is technically tomorrow. So I won’t be sleeping much in the foreseeable future. Rather than track my interests in the scientific literature, I’m going to chronicle for you the life of a Ph.D candidate in its pupal (pupil?) stages. Shortly I will metamorphose, but until then, stay tuned.

Today, I got up at 7:30 AM and went to the dentist. I got back at 3:30PM and felt a desperate need to acquire a glue stick. I wanted to stick into my notebook a printout of a procedure I wanted to run. It’s the repeat of the procedure I spend 40 hours on this long holiday weekend. And I need it to be stuck in my notebook neatly and securely. So I got a glue stick. And Coffee. The Coffee had nothing to do with sticking things in my notebook.

The 10 cups of coffee may have something to do with the violent diarrhea at 5:00, however. That and the stress.

In any case, I got the procedure into my notebook, and then I had to actually run it. I’m still running (AT 12:43 AM!) it thanks to a crappy epoxy bond. I’m also attempting to apply for a second job to pay for my impending trip to Europe. I am going to Europe to see my sweetie who will be in Germany in August. But right now I am tired and a little lonesome.

I’m running on caffeine, leftover pizza, and sheer determination.

We’ll see if I can keep this up for 21 days.


P.S. What do dolphins, humans and bonobos have in common?

Along the leading edge of their lifting surfaces, they form Large vortices behind troughs whereas flow behind the tubercles forms straight streamlines! Check out the article at Eurekalert!

Actually, this doesn’t apply to bonobos at all.