by Misha Guptafigures by Xiaomeng Han For close to two centuries, humans have been studying the biological past using fossil records. In recent history, we have added the ability to reconstruct the sequence of our DNA to our arsenal. Furthermore, phylogenetic trees (structures that define the evolutionary relationships in the line of descent from a common ancestor) have been created for all manners of organisms, … Continue reading Viral Fossil Records: A Look into the Past! (and the Future?)￼
Lacking the antiviral mechanisms of the rest of our body, stem cells use an ancient trick from plants and worms – RNA interference – to protect against viral infection. Continue reading Our Body’s Stem Cells use an Ancient Mechanism to Defend against Viruses
Current polio vaccines have been successful in nearly eradicating polio in the world. Unfortunately, there have been emerging cases of polio in recent years. To combat this, scientists have designed a new oral poliovirus vaccine that could result in a new and safer polio vaccine. Continue reading Redesigning the polio vaccine – Lessons from evolution
by Jordan Wilkerson figures by Aparna Nathan Every morning when I wake up, I take a swig of water and swallow a blue pill. I don’t have an illness that the drug is treating. In fact, I’m quite healthy. I take the pill to keep from getting ill. Referred to as PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, the pill protects me from potential infection by the infamous … Continue reading What’s in My Morning Pill?
by Joseph Cabral figures by Rebecca Senft cover by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images In the middle of the 20th century, poliovirus could be found in every country of the world. Infection by poliovirus can lead to a severe disease called poliomyelitis, or simply polio, in which the patients become paralyzed when poliovirus inflames the spinal cord. To great public relief, the first … Continue reading The Replacement Polio
Ever wonder why we make snot? Mucus lines our respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, acting as a sticky glue that traps unwanted substances before they can get into the body. However, research from Jeremy Barr’s lab in Melbourne, Australia has shown that there might be a lot more to the story of snot. Barr and his team have found that mucus contains a far higher concentration … Continue reading Bacteria-killing viruses: an army of disease-fighters within us?
by Colin O’Leary figures by Rebecca Clements News of viral epidemics spreads faster than the viruses themselves. Once the virus arrives, how do we determine where it came from? How do scientists monitor the arrival and spread beyond keeping track of the number of cases at a given time? Instead of sifting through medical records in search of the first infected person—the elusive “patient zero”—studying the … Continue reading A DNA-based view reveals hidden Zika spread
by Apurva Govande figures by Anna Maurer Viruses and the globe In a hidden part of our world exists the vastly diverse microscopic universe. This micro-universe exerts a great amount of influence on our lives via minuscule, unseen molecular packages like viruses. Viruses are tiny structures made of protein that can contain DNA or RNA (the more unstable cousin of DNA) to produce more viruses after infecting … Continue reading It’s Going Viral: (Re)-emerging viruses and epidemics in our increasingly global world
With the warm weather of summer quickly approaching, a common enemy known as the mosquito will soon make a reappearance. Mosquitoes are more than just an irritation. In many areas of the world, mosquitoes are also carriers of infectious diseases such as malaria and the Zika virus. While the mosquito is a major problem to many, scientists at Microsoft Research are attempting to exploit some … Continue reading Mosquitos: Friend or Foe? Possible use of mosquitos in modern epidemiology
2016 was a tumultuous year in many respects, but it ended with a major victory against Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Ebola’s most recent outbreak ravaged West Africa from 2013 to 2016, killing roughly two out of every five patients and tens of thousands of people in total. Treatment options are limited once the disease takes hold, so researchers have been pursuing a vaccine that protects against … Continue reading Virus Beware: Ebola Vaccine Successfully Developed