A life commandeered

It was made for you.

A connection before you were

ever born.

When it feels out, into the dark, you’ll be there

and you’ll draw it in.


Surrounded by your kin

a familiar grasp

But its none of them.

You are beset.


Just a pinch and a push

and its done.

An itch and tingle and you’ve become more

than you’ve ever been,

an extra length

of soul incised and tied.

It fit, in a blink, and it settled into you.

Like the last lie you’d ever tell yourself.


Divided, you persist as you can.

The shame you feel

when you see it in your progeny.

A beastly poison in their being.

You know it is a matter of time.


Bracing, you and yours

fall apart.

The thing you kept and passed on,

wrested from you all the mechanisms of life.

You watch as you are dismantled.

And with your last attempt for salvation,

if not for you, then for others,

you rip and raise high

a sign of the anathema.


Artist Statement:

Learning about lysogenic viral cycle was one of those times in biology that I felt there was something poetic going on. The nature of the invasion and destruction of cells from this type of virus made me think about things in human lives that are applicable. Where ideas are impregnated and can have profound influences on how we live. The cycle seems dark and sad to me. But like in the human spirit, the drive of life at all levels can be at times selfless in the face of defeat. I was instantly drawn to the idea of a cell’s MHC showing the on the outside what was going to destroy it from the inside. It seemed to have a greater meaning than its evolutionary utility. Although what is described in the poem is meant more for a bacteriophage, I took some license with what would possibly be more appropriately an endogenous retrovirus in humans.

A2: Microbes in the News

Antibody helps detect protein implicated in Alzheimer’s, other diseases


Summary: The article discusses research looking to find less invasive ways to identify and then track the progress of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. They have accomplished the first step by crafting an antibody which binds to the protein tau, which is present in tangles when damage to the brain is occurring. The antibody allows tau to stay present in the blood and accumulate long enough to be observable via blood tests.

Connection: The article discusses the use of an human antibody, but in a way we didn’t really cover in class. The antibody is not used as a flag for the destruction of a microbe or “not-self” entity in the body, but rather keep an entity around long enough to track its concentrations.

Critical Analysis:  This article does an excellent job of explaining the issues related to diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases, as well as the way in which the protein tau is associated and was identified as a potential measurable product for blood tests. Though the study has only done limited preliminary human trials, they were able to magnify the presence of tau in the blood of individuals with known neurodegenerative diseases. I believe the article did a great job of translating the innovative way in which scientists approach problems like that of diagnostics, and the interdisciplinary cooperation and literacy that is at the command of these researchers to accomplish what was discussed.

Question:  Would this antibody have the ability to track damage as it accumulates in individuals like football players, perhaps as a longitudinal study to gain more data and a predictive model for brain damage?

A2: Microbes in the News!

Fungi have enormous potential for new antibiotics


Summary: This article explores recent research into the genome of 24 different fungal species in order to identify antibiotic and other bioactive compound production genes. This study has resulted in the discovery of over 1000 pathways for generation of bioactive compounds with pharmaceutical application.

Connection:  The article could be characterized as part history of the use of antibiotics and the rise of antibiotic resistance. We have at length discussed the prevalence and mechanisms for bacterial antibiotic resistance as well as the known pathways for antibiotic production in microbes like fungi.

Critical Analysis:  The studied referenced in the article shows the promise of new antibiotic and even anti-cancer medications as a result of identifying these genomic pathways in fungi. The researchers believe that the knowledge gained from these sequences will also improve the efficiency of production and efficacy of existing antibiotics. At one point in the article, they refer to the predictive capability of the researchers experiments with the new sequencing data, claiming that not only could they predict the chemicals these fungi were capable of making, but identifying new versions of the same antibiotic chemicals. The reader must infer from the phrasing of this part that the researchers were able to trace the gene and find fungi that were previously unknown to have the ability to produce that particular antibiotic. The implications of information like that open the door wide to not only new means of production, but new variants of chemicals that have otherwise been fighting an uphill battle against antibiotic resistance.

Question:  If it is true that the researchers found antibiotic production previously undiscovered in some fungi, they use the example of the chemical yanuthone, are these inactive genes that must be activated, and how are they accurately and consistently activating these genes to produce this chemical?

A2: Microbes in the News

Ben-Gurion U. researchers develop membranes that remove viruses from drinking water



Summary:  In a cooperative research effort between the Israeli and US universities, a hydrogel was developed to coat exisiting  commercial ultrafiltration membranes in order to increase their ability to repel and filter viruses, specifically Adenovirus and norovirus. The impetus for its development, and the advantage over normal methods of filtering viruses, is because it can function without amounts of energy and without additional chemical disinfecting products.

Connections:  This article relates to our discussions in class regarding both water purification in the form of filtration of pathogens, as well as food/water safety methods on a large scale.

Critical Analysis:  This article is interesting because it addresses the issue of public waste water as a critical entry point for microbes into municipal drinking water. In our lecture discussion during class we did not delve much into the that particular issue. The article highlights the cost of current methods of waste filtration and treatment, but does not give much in the way of details for the size of the issue, nor the extent of contamination that these cities are facing. To that same point, they fail to explain how effective the hydrogel is at ‘repelling’ viruses. Though the article seems to be a brief overview for the layman, I don’t believe the readers would have been bored by statistics to reinforce the information they provided. However, if this is an effective method that can be applied to control measures already in place, the results could be outstanding for reuse of potable water.

Question:  How long are the researchers expecting the hydrogel coating to maintain efficacy? Will the gel last as long as the existing filter it is applied to, and what will the added costs for cities planning to implement this extra barrier in their water supply?

Painting with Microbes

The First photo is from the regular agar. The colors available made me instantly think of Homer Simpson. The next was EMB where I was hoping to get more fermentation by the time I took that photo to get a glow around a moon in the night sky. The final was also not fermenting well but was supposed to be a viking ship on the sea with a red sky behind it. Overall a very fun lab session!