Today I wanted to talk and mention a little about a man who is quite interesting. Almost now around two months ago it was my pleasure to conduct an interview with a Rutgers researcher named Amrik Sahota.
Dr. Sahota is very extraordinary and he is in a field that seems to be overlooked. He was born and raised in England where he graduated with both his BA, and MA in genetics/ molecular biology. He came to America and did some post graduate work to obtain a doctorate. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Dr. Sahota actually worked at a hospital to gain some experience and more hands on with people, and he actually taught at another university. Upon coming to Rutgers, he taught a higher level genetics and molecular biology class, but has recently stopped. He has stopped because he is also heavily in the field of research which is what fascinated me about him.
While he may do some clinical work such as diagnosing people with illness, conducting them on how to use medicine, and counseling, his main focus is working in the lab which is something I want to do. He is specialized and mostly works with Kidney disorders such as urinary tract stone diseases and is looking for means to cure them with a drug. He is currently working with mice and evaluating new approaches to Cystinuria therapy and understanding more what exactly the relationship between stone type and pathology, and in what ways this may affect an individual. By looking at genes and the coding of certain genes that may be inherited and cause a kidney problem, his team has developed a drug and it is currently undergoing early clinical trials to see if the drug is acceptable and safe for humans.
Although very hard to believe today, there was actually a time where medicine wasn’t exactly practical and not necessarily beneficial. This time period we like to call it now as the Dark Ages, or the Medieval time period aging around 5th century to the mid 15th century. During this time period medicine wasn’t really effective, and a lot of plagues and disease spread easily due to the lack of technology and knowledge of bacteria, viruses parasites, and other pathogens that can effect the human body. This time was very dark because the people living in this time period didn’t have any means of treating and fighting off disease so if you were infected, you either got better or you died.
However, since Alexander Fleming’s discovery in the 1930’s, it has been a rather golden age in medicine because we are treating illnesses that we couldn’t before. Unfortunately it would seem as if we may soon be heading back to another dark age in human history. That is because by the means of evolution, there are now antibiotic resistant microbes. These microbes are resistant to current antibiotic treatments and are not treatable. This is problematic because the drug industry is pushing out newer drugs slower than the bacteria becoming resistant to them. It is estimated that 700,000 people die yearly now but that could jump to more than 10million by 250.
Fortunately, it would seem that there is a new movement in science who focus and look at older medicinal treatments such as in the Medieval Age and are working together to make new remedies. A team recently conducted a study with a 1,000 year old recipe called Bald’s eyesalve which they believed was used to help infection of the eyelash follicle. In their study, it would seem that it turned out to be a potent antistaphyloccal agent that killed bacterium and killed MRSA in mouse models.
This is extremely significant because this suggest that there may be hidden unknown more natural methods of treating illness than we previously thought. This also will push digging and looking further into Premodern European medicine and ancient Chinese medicines because these tend to be overlooked and many have their superstitions about them. As of now the team seems to have a database of other medicinal recipes that they are looking to try and hopefully they will be effective as with Bald’s eyesalve so we can avoid another Dark Age.
Ed Yong is quite a young renowned science writer who blogs and writes science articles in The Atlantic. He writes and covers a multitude of science topics that can range from how the government and politics sees science to the tiny, naked to the human eye, microscopic organisms that live inside of us.
On that last note, he recently published a new book in 2017 called, I contain Multitudes-the Microbes within us and a Grander view of life. This book is rather quite interesting in the aspect that Ed Yong tries to show us how we are more connected at a microscopic level than we think. First Ed Yong wants to get rid of the generalization that modern society has depicted of microscopic organisms, that they are “bad and dangerous”.
Through the chapters of the book, he shows us like the evolutionary history and talks about how we got to where we are today. Then then within each chapter there is some sort of significance that can be related back to you, the reader. For example one chapter states how your first gut bacterium and immunity can be traced from your mother because through vaginal births, you get a swab of her when you first come out. And he talks about studies where that those babies who came out via C-section may lack certain microbes that are crucial in early life. He also tells us some stories and snippets of what he got from interviewing well renowned doctors and researchers.
Ultimately Ed Yong is trying to change some misconceptions on microbes and he wants the general public to have and view a bigger picture about life. This read is particular good because he simplifies terminology for those who may not be familiar in the science field, he relates it back to the reader, and he even gives tips on what we can do. You can now find his book on Amazon on your preferred platform ranging from $10.99 to $33.99. This book is an amazing read and I hope that you check it out.
HIV is very elusive and devastating retrovirus. First globally recognized as a problem in the 1980’s, physicians worldwide have been trying to figure out and find a cure/vaccine to this virus, but unfortunately to no prevail. Part of the problem is that the cells that they infect and stay undetected in evade the body for a long time until it is too late. These cells are called T-cells which are a type of lymphocyte that that plays a central role in cell-mediated immunity.
Scientist are trying to find these elusive cells, study and then ultimately kill them. The good news is that recently, scientist may actually be on to making more progress with this disease. On an infected T-cell that is dormant, there is a receptor called CD32a that is a protein. With this receptor, the protein provides a way to distinguish these sleeper T cells from other immune-system cells.
The receptor provides hope that scientists could target these silent, infected cells and destroy them. One reason why researchers are interested is because of antiviral drugs. These drugs are good because they prevent the virus from spreading throughout the body, and infected immune cells like the T-cell to stop transcribing and replicating the viral DNA. But because there is a small portion of infected T-cells that are dormant, the drugs nor our immune systems detect these cells.
Then arises the problem if the patient stops taking the drug then these cells can become active and the problem then progresses. In 2012, HIV researchers found and attempted a new approach to targeting dormant, infected T cells. This technique was called “shock and kill”, which essentially means they are reactivating/trying to kickstart viral replication in these dormant T-cells. This may be a big red flag because why would you want to “turn on” these infected cells.
But actually it is a good idea because with this theoretically then the viral drugs should work and we shouldn’t have to worry as much. Unfortunately for the most part when testing this, the HIV infected cells were not stimulated enough. This is where CD32a comes into play. When using a fluorescent tagger in gene expression between non-infected and infected T-cells, the infected T-cells showed this gene. Therefore scientist believe, by using an antibody that sticks to CD32a, the researchers then pulled cells expressing the protein out of human blood samples from HIV-infected people. Hopefully following this, then the ultimate goal would be to see if CD32a turns out to be a reliable marker, so it can be used to target drugs to the latent T-cells.