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Biomed Bites, Genetics, Research, Videos

RNA editing: Many mysteries remain

RNA editing: Many mysteries remain

Welcome to Biomed Bites, a weekly feature that introduces readers to some of Stanford’s most innovative biomedical researchers.  

DNA, RNA, protein, end of story, right? Well, no. Sometimes, RNA is edited after it is created. These new revised copies can perform different functions or contribute to the development of disease.

But for decades, no one had a great way to examine post-transcriptional changes to RNA, much less understand what role they play in cellular processes. Thanks to advances in technology, that is changing.

In the video above, Jin Billy Li, PhD, assistant professor of genetics, explains how his lab is working to unravel RNA’s remaining secrets. “In the future, we hope to associate this interesting phenomenon with human neurological conditions such as autism, epilepsy, depression and ALS,” he says.

Learn more about Stanford Medicine’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.

Previously: Tissue-specific gene expression focus of Stanford research, grant, “Housekeeping” RNAs have important, and unsuspected, role in cancer prevention, study shows and Make it or break it — or both: New research reveals RNA’s dual role

Biomed Bites, Research, Stanford News, Videos

Study of ion channels could improve care for osteoporosis

Study of ion channels could improve care for osteoporosis

Welcome to Biomed Bites, a weekly feature that introduces readers to some of Stanford’s most innovative biomedical researchers. 

Ion channels are similar to very sophisticated dog doors. They’re specific, only allowing beloved Fido, not Rover from next door, to enter the house (cell).

And they play an integral role in the electrical signaling that underlies a variety of fundamental physiological processes. Merritt Maduke, PhD, associate professor of molecular and cellular physiology, studies these channels and in the video above, she lays out the puzzles that motivated her to study ion channels, and their kin, ion transporters. (In the dog door analogy, transporters are a door that propels Fido outdoors when he’s feeling lazy). She says:

My interest in ion channels and transporters stems from the molecules themselves. How do they reside in the greasy, thin film of the membrane while at the same time making an aqueous pore that allows ions to cross that barrier? How do they select for certain ions over others? How are they regulated? How do they harvest energy using molecular motions to pump ions?

The answers to these questions may allow researchers to improve treatments for osteoporosis, a condition caused by the weakening of bones, which is spurred, in part due to ion channel-mediated acidification, Maduke says.

Learn more about Stanford Medicine’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.

Previously: Stanford hearing study upends 30-year-old belief on how humans perceive sound, New genetic regions associated with osteoporosis and bone fracture and Pediatrics group issues new recommendations for building strong bones in kids

In the News, Pediatrics, Stanford News, Videos

“The need is out there”: A look at the new Teen Van

"The need is out there": A look at the new Teen Van

It’s big, blue and beneficial to hundreds of San Francisco Bay Area teens who don’t have the means or the motivation to visit a traditional doctors’ office.

The Mobile Adolescent Health Services Program operated by Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford — aka the Teen Van — was featured on this recent Bay Area Proud segment from NBC Bay Area.

Spearheaded by Seth Ammerman, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics, the van provides a host of health services to teens — 40 percent of whom are currently homeless or have been in the past year, Ammerman says.

Although the program has been around since 1996, the van itself is new, offering more space and enhanced technology. And there’s plenty of work to be done.

“The need is out there, unfortunately, for more programs like this,” Ammerman says.

Previously: Adolescent Health Van wins community award for aiming to “help kids turn their lives around” and Packard Children’s Adolescent Health Van celebrates 15 years
Video courtesy of NBC Bay Area

Education, Patient Care, Technology, Videos

Physician-writer Abraham Verghese on ritual, technology and medical training

Physician-writer Abraham Verghese on ritual, technology and medical training

stethoscope-448614_1280Listening to Abraham Verghese, MD, is always a treat, so I quickly clicked on a recently published Q&A featuring Verghese in conversation with Steven Stack, MD, president of the American Medical Association.

Of particular interest were comments on changes in the training of medical students. Here’s Verghese:

There have been some striking changes. For one thing, the model that you probably trained under and certainly I trained under — an intense focus on the patient and the bedside and rounds going from bed to bed — I think it’s been sort of kidnapped in a sense by the workstation.

One of the great disappointments students have when they come on the wards is… in the first two years they’re learning physical diagnosis, and they’re so excited to learn how to read the body as a text. And they arrive on the wards, and their moment of awakening, almost disillusionment, is to find that the currency on the wards does not revolve around the patient. It revolves much more around the computer. For many of them, it’s a moment of crisis. I think it actually leads many of them away from primary care, which is not a good trend.

Verghese also weighs in on the importance of touch and how a physical exam is a ritual akin to baptism or graduation. Two videos round out the post, where Verghese and Stack (the youngest AMA president since 1854!) discuss the excessive use of tests and Verghese’s motivation to begin writing books.

Previously: Abraham Verghese: “It’s a great time for physician leaders to embrace design thinking”, Abraham Verghese: “There is no panacea for an investment of time at the bedside with students and Physician-author Abraham Verghese encourages journalists to tell the powerful stories of medicine
Photo by HolgersFotografie

 

Biomed Bites, Microbiology, Research, Videos

Unwelcome guests: How viruses take over cells

Unwelcome guests: How viruses take over cells

Welcome to Biomed Bites, a weekly feature that introduces readers to some of Stanford’s most innovative biomedical researchers.

Viruses are the ultimate uninvited guests. They barge in and make themselves perfectly at home — feeling free to use, say, your waffle maker to whip up a nice breakfast and to co-opt your favorite easy chair for their own purposes.

In cells, many mysteries remain about how viruses take over enzymes and other systems in cells to reproduce.

That’s exactly what Peter Sarnow, PhD, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology, and his team investigate. From the video above:

My lab is interested in studying virus-host interactions. In particular, we’re interested in learning how viruses subvert functions from the host cell such as using the ribosomes to synthesize their own proteins.

He explains a recent discovery his team has worked on that may lead to better treatments for hepatitis C infections. “I’m very optimistic this will be beneficial and is a good example of how basic science really translates into translational medicine,” Sarnow says.

Learn more about Stanford Medicine’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.

Previously: Why are viruses so wily? One research thinks she knows — and is working to thwart them, Ending enablers: Stanford researcher examines genes to find virus helpers and To screen or not to screen for hepatitis C

Biomed Bites, Infectious Disease, Microbiology, Research, Videos

Improving infection recovery

Improving infection recovery

Welcome to Biomed Bites, a weekly feature that introduces readers to some of Stanford’s most innovative biomedical researchers. 

Think back on the last time you came down with something. First you were sick, acutely ill. But then, days or hours later, you were no longer ill, but also not well, stuck in the grey zone of recovery.

That’s the stage of illness that most interests David Schneider, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology, and those in his lab. As Schneider explains in the video above:

It looks like recovery is a different sort of process than getting sick. So we’re trying to take this apart first by working with fruit flies, then by working with mice and eventually by working with people.

Our goal is to be able to take someone suffering from an infection and really help them improve their recovery.

Learn more about Stanford Medicine’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.

Previously: Immune cell linked to surgery recovery time, Stanford scientists find, Stanford team develops a method to prevent the viral infection that causes dengue fever and Shrugging off bugs: there’s more to beating infections than just fighting them

Neuroscience, Patient Care, Stanford News, Videos

Stanford Neuroscience Health Center opens to patients today

Stanford Neuroscience Health Center opens to patients today

Today, the Stanford Neuroscience Health Center officially opened its doors. Every part of the five-story, 92,000-square-feet building was designed with patients in mind.

As neurologist Jeffrey Dunn, MD, explains in the video above: “The medical architecture of the last generation placed the physician at the center of things. This building flips that. It puts the patient at the center of all things we do.”

Enjoy the tour.

Previously: Celebrating the new Stanford Neuroscience Health Center and Building for collaboration spurs innovative science

Biomed Bites, Cardiovascular Medicine, Research, Videos

The birth of Bio-X: A behind-the-scenes tale from its first director

The birth of Bio-X: A behind-the-scenes tale from its first director

Welcome to Biomed Bites, a weekly feature that introduces readers to some of Stanford’s most innovative biomedical researchers.

Before all things “x”, there was Bio-X, Stanford’s groundbreaking interdisciplinary facilitator. But did you know it got its start thanks to a quest to understand myosin, the molecular motor that drives cellular movement?

Neither did I, until I watched this video with James Spudich, PhD, professor of biochemistry. Here he tells the tale, which involves a unique collaboration — and student exchange — between the Departments of Biochemistry and of Physics, and between Spudich and Bio-X co-founder Steven Chu, PhD (the former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Nobel laureate), a partnership that produced insight into the functioning of myosin as well as Bio-X.

“We had to invent new ways to approach the problem in order to understand how these motors really work,” Spudich says in the video above.

Invent new ways, they did. And now, that invention has given birth to scores more.

Learn more about Stanford Medicine’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.

Previously: Stanford molecular-motor maven Jim Spudich wins Lasker Award, Close-up look at mutinous mutant molecule implicated in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and They said “Yes”: The attitude that defines Stanford Bio-X

Biomed Bites, Genetics, Neuroscience, Research, Videos

A scientific metamorphosis: From butterflies to myelin

A scientific metamorphosis: From butterflies to myelin

Welcome to Biomed Bites, a weekly feature that introduces readers to some of Stanford’s most innovative biomedical researchers. 

William Talbot, PhD, started out studying how caterpillars become butterflies. Now a professor of developmental biology, his research focuses on the formation of myelin, that all-important sheath that protects nerve fibers and speeds the transmission of messages.

His aims are high: By understanding the genetic foundation of myelin development, he hopes to create treatments for conditions like multiple sclerosis, which affects myelin and myelin repair.

“We don’t know much about how [myelin] forms,” Talbot says in the video above. “We are taking a genetic approach to try to find mutations that disrupt myelin and use these to discover new genes that might allow us to repair myelin that is disrupted.”

The caterpillars were a crucial step in his own scientific development, Talbot says.

“The techniques that we use and the general logic we use to study these questions are basically the same, although the technology and specific research topics have evolved greatly,” Talbot says.

Learn more about Stanford Medicine’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.

Previously: Face blindness stems form differences in neurocircuitry, Brain, heal thyself? Stanford research describes delayed onset of multiple sclerosis in mice and Video game accessory may help multiple sclerosis patients reduce falls, boost brain connections

Applied Biotechnology, Bioengineering, Stanford News, Videos

Manu under the microscope

Manu under the microscope

Warning: This video could change the way you look at the world.

So if you’re willing, take the deep dive into this New Yorker magazine video and story, which capture the curiosity-driven magic of Stanford bioengineering inventor Manu Prakash, PhD, and his low-cost microscope, called the Foldscope.

This deceptively simple invention is a bookmark-looking assembly made of folded cardstock, a tiny glass bead and a photo battery, that can take you on a fantastic voyage into the microcosmos.

Last year Prakash shipped free Foldscopes around the world, and created a cult-like following of people sharing their microscopic discoveries. The New Yorker article goes on to describe some of the ways that people are using this invention:

The Foldscope performs most of the functions of a high-school lab microscope, but its parts cost less than a dollar. Last year, with a grant from Gordon Moore’s philanthropic foundation (Moore co-founded Intel), Prakash and some of his graduate students launched an experiment in mass microscopy, mailing fifty thousand free Foldscopes to people in more than a hundred and thirty countries, who had volunteered to test the devices. At the same time, they created Foldscope Explore, a Web site where recipients of the kits can share photos, videos, and commentary. A plant pathologist in Rwanda uses the Foldscope to study fungi afflicting banana crops. Maasai children in Tanzania examine bovine dung for parasites. An entomologist in the Peruvian Amazon has happened upon an unidentified species of mite. One man catalogues pollen; another tracks his dog’s menstrual cycle.

If you’d like to explore with your own Foldscope, you’ll have to be patient. Prakash is still in the planning process of manufacturing and distribution. In the meantime, you can put your name on the round-two waiting list at foldingmicroscope@gmail.com.

Previously: Foldscope beta testers share the wonders of the microcosmosStanford microscope inventor invited to first White House Maker Faire, The pied piper of cool science tools and Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope
Video by Sky Dylan-Robbins

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