Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Science Friday: Making Science Radioactive

Science Friday: Making Science Radioactive

I'm really quite excited about my little discovery today. It brings together an intersection of several things I've been interested in: Podcasting, NPR (Science Friday in this case), and iTunes.

Apple just released their latest version of iTunes, 4.9, with built in Podcast support. Previously one had to use a separate application to download and manage the podcasts, and hope it worked with iTunes. I haven't tried the new version yet, but I plan to shortly.

NPR doesn't on the whole offer podcasts, but some of their affliates do (WGBH programs have a few). I wrote NPR requesting that they make this possible, but it was only a feedback request so I don't expect much action. Things came together for me when I wanted to find out who was on Science Friday last Friday. When I went to the Science Friday website and looked around a little I discovered Science Friday does a podcast! Great! Now I don't have to be next to the radio to get the programming I really like.

Anyway, I'm excited. I'll post again with the final verdict, but I'm optimistic for now.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Antibody mediated in vivo delivery of small interfering RNAs via cell-surface receptors - Nature Biotechnology

Antibody mediated in vivo delivery of small interfering RNAs via cell-surface receptors - Nature Biotechnology

Here's a link to an article about use of one of the hot subjects in biotechnology right now: RNA interference, in this case small-interfering RNA in particular (siRNA). Unfortunately most people won't be able to read the whole article, for the publishers restrict access (which is a whole other rant for me) and it is technical writing. For the non-technical among us let me give just a brief background. When a gene is expressed it is copied from the genome DNA into a similar, but distinctly different, molecule called RNA. RNA is generally much smaller than the DNA from which it is copied (transcribed we should say). It is this RNA which is directly translated into proteins that will do that actual work in the cell or outside the cell.

Here's when things get hot with RNA interference. Almost all pharmaceutical treatments work at the most basic level by binding to a protein and keeping it from working normally, effectively stopping the action of that protein. If the protein wasn't there to begin with that would be an alternative way to achieve the same purpose, and possible better. Often the small molecules to inibit a protein don't do a very good job, and may inhibit things they aren't supposed to. RNA interference poses the possibility that we could decrease a protein's expression more specifically than with a small molecule that inhibits that protein's activity.

The problems of RNAi of many at this point though. It is difficult to make work inside the body (in vivo), and the levels required make it orders of magnitude more expensive than most drugs. It's stability is poor, working only transiently. Those methods that do allow for delivery of the siRNA are not very specific. Peopel are working to address all these problems, but RNAi has a long way to go before it reaches mainstream.

What makes this paper with the link so impressive is that the authors figured out a way to target siRNA to a specific tissue (in this case a tumor) that was expressing one of the HIV proteins (a potential therapeutic target). They managed to slow the growth of the tumor (as measured by weight) to ~50% of their controls, very impressiv e in my mind for an initial study. I'll try to keep an eye out for more from their group.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Prodigem Hosting Service

Prodigem Hosting Service

OK, this is too cool. I was reading BoingBoing in my newsreader and I just had to check this out. Looks like someone made a little business out of distributing content via BitTorrent, and let me emphasize legal content.

From the brief amount of time I've browsed what they have available it looks like the stuff on it is most Creative Commons licensed, but there is also a lot of GPL and LGPL stuff up as well. I decided to try to download the Wired CD: Ripped Samples Mashed Shared, since I had heard about it and was interested in picking it up. There was only 1 seed for the download, but I was getting over 100Kbs, a very respectable speed for downloading with a single seed for a BitTorrent distributed file. Cool stuff.

What to Read, What to Read....

NPR - All Things Considered: Books & Music

I recalled hearing about the Modern Libary Board top 100 on NPR, but not until today did I not take the time to dig out the story. I've been thinking about what to read next over the some (beside research articles on dioxin of course). Seems like this list would be a good place to start.

Monday, June 20, 2005

1st Father's Day

This weekend was the first Father's Day for me. We spent it visiting my family in Grand Haven, with a quick side trip to visit Ellie's grandparents. I was a good weekend on the whole, but I was really tired when we all got back home.

Friday I was up at 5am, and one of my lab mates picked me up at 6am to drive to Wayne State University (in Detroit) for a "Pharmacology Colloqium." While I didn't see much research that translated directly into my own work, it was interesting from a purely educational standpoint. A lot of presentations from the people at Medical College of Ohio, less from Wayne State, probably about the same for University of Michigan, and the least being Michigan State. I was pretty disappointed with the turn out. The majority of people from MSU were from our lab. It will be interesting, because next year we are hosting. What makes this unusual is there is a rotation of colleges to host, but last year MSU was supposed to host and the planning fell apart due to schedule squabbling from one of the other schools.

Anyway, Detroit was a big mess with all the pre-Super Bowl road work, we took a single wrong turn and had to go in a circle to get back on the road home. We finally got home (Holt) around 7pm. By the time Ellie and I talked and got Simone fed we didn't get to leave home for Grand Haven until 7:45pm, then realized 20 minutes from home we forgot something and had to turn around. In the end we arrived in Grand Haven about 10pm.

It was a nice weekend to be visiting GH. The weather was cool, so we took a long walk around town on Saturday morning, looking at all the new stores and condo construction, wondering how some of the proprietors think they're going to be in business for long (a bead shop comes to mind).

Rob flew into town for the weekend, taking a respite from Texas A&M, seeing Simone for the first time and visiting with the whole family. We hadn't gotten together in at least half a year. Had dinner with Mom, and got back to Dad's place and tried to settle down for the evening.

Sunday was spent drinking some coffee in a downtown coffee shop with Mom, Ellie, Simone, Rob, and my cousin Chris, then we had lunch with my Dad to celebrate. When we finally got to Twin Lake to visit with Ellie's grandparents I was so tired to fell asleep sitting on the couch for a little while.

When we finally got home Ellie and Simone gave me some Father's Day gifts (a nice little black desktop organizer for work), and we started to unpack. I got one of those great moments that parents sometimes get which really made my day. We were unpacking and had sat Simone down on the floor in her room with her blanket. Ellie went to the other room while I was in our bedroom, and as I walk into Simone's room she looks up from chewing on her blanket and gives me her widest, happiest, gummy grin, as if she had just been waiting to see me and all of a sudden she got exactly what she wanted. There is something incredible how your baby looks at you and you feel so connected, like there is nothing else so valuable to them as to see you and know that you are there for each other. I imagine my grin was a big as hers. It's a moment I want to remember, and so inspired this post.

Monday, June 06, 2005

CSTAT | The Center for Statistical Training and Consulting

CSTAT | The Center for Statistical Training and Consulting

So here at MSU we've got a consulting service for researchers and otherwise on campus. I had totally forgotten about them until I got an email today from a couple of professors inside the Pharmacology & Toxicology department about summer workshops. It's been a while since I've had a statistics class, and I've never received any good training in the use of software packages for analysis, so signed up for a pair of workshops. One was on basic statistics and use of SPSS (one of the software packages used for life science research), and one about "Standard Error and Mixed Models," which I'm not entirely clear on. Might be beneficial, or it might be 3 hours of I don't know what. I guess I'll find out in July.