By Nicole Strossman, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ’17
“I chose to write about this topic in an effort to gain a better understanding of Zika virus. While the topic is frequently in the news, the specifics of the virus are not always discussed in depth. As ongoing research is demonstrating the virus’ possible links to human health disorders, it is important for the general public to be informed about the facts of the virus, in an effort to minimize its spread.”
Continue reading Zika Virus
By Briga Mullin, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ’15
The human body’s immune system has been developed to successfully battle foreign invaders including bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Immunotherapy is the idea that the power of the immune system can be utilized against diseases such as cancer. Typically, the immune system does not harm the body’s own cells, preventing it from being extremely effective against cancer. However with different medical interventions to strengthen the body’s immune response, it is possible to get an effective treatment (Cancer Immunotherapy 2015).
A unique and exciting branch of immunotherapy involves oncolytic viruses, genetically modified viruses that are used to infect tumor cells and fight cancer (Vile, Ando, and Kirn 2002). One example of an oncolytic virus is Oncolytic Polio/Rhinovirus Recombinant (PVS-RIPO), a genetic combination of poliovirus and a strain of the common cold. Continue reading Can Polio Cure Cancer?
By Oyang Teng, Biological Sciences ’14
Microbes are the planetary engineers of the biogeochemical cycles that sustain all life on earth. At the molecular scale, the biological turnover of such key elements as hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, iron and sulfur depends on the enzymatic transfer of electrons from reduced (electron-donating) to oxidized (electron-accepting) forms of these elements. On the global scale and over geological time, reduced substrates and oxidized products map to a vast, often circuitous flux between the interior depths of the mantle and the oceans, land, and atmosphere.
Continue reading Viruses and the Global Metabolic Pathway
By Mubasher Ahmed, Genetics ‘15
Viral evolution is an emerging field in biology that has great implications for human health. T7 is a phage virus, meaning it infects bacteria, and is a powerful model system in evolutionary virology. In a recent experiment, a team of biologists sought to understand the degree to which genetic elements engineered into the T7 phage genome affected the phage’s rate of propagation. In this context, the genetic elements are sequences of DNA that are inserted between genes that allow for researchers to manipulate gene regulatory networks. This allows biologists to probe how phenotypes change when gene-gene interactions are perturbed. Previous studies had shown that such genomic elements led to decreased fitness for the virus, but these investigators hoped to better understand how exactly such a system would evolve in laboratory conditions.
To address their questions, the scientists grew both T7 viruses with and without design elements in each of two conditions. One condition was in a nutritious broth that used one intestinal bacterium as a host, and the other in a glucose sugar medium that had a different host bacterium. Both T7 strains were allowed to grow for 700-1000 generations in the glucose media and 100 generations in the broth media. Limitless bacteria were provided for the phages in order to encourage growth, and the researchers hypothesized that their experiment would allow enough time for the maladapted viruses to slough off deleterious design elements through evolutionary adaptation. Continue reading Viral Evolution
By David Ivanov, Biochemistry ’15
Oral vaccines are known to be a convenient and effective method for treatment or prevention of diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms. The difficulty of developing such vaccines is due to the often inhospitable environment of the stomach and intestinal tract because of low pH, or acidity, as well as enzymes that can digest or destroy biological molecules. Using a virus-like particle to deliver the vaccine is an advantageous method for getting around these and other barriers in the host organism.
A virus-like particle, or VLP, is a biological particle that resembles a virus, but contains no genetic information and thus cannot infect host cells. VLP’s can be formed by inserting and expressing just the genes for creating the viral capsid, which is a shell made up of protein subunits that protects the infectious genetic information in wild-type, or normal, viruses. The expressed capsid proteins can then self-assemble into the VLP. The capsid also has domains, or structural areas, that are responsible for recognizing suitable host cells to infect and inserting the viral genome.
Continue reading Engineering Hepatitis Virus-like Particles for Oral Vaccine Delivery