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November 16, 2015

CTOR Bites - Episode 3 - THE FOG AT BAY with Felicia De La Garza Mercer

Our latest Bite introduces 'The Fog at Bay' - a new offshoot series of personal mental health stories from academia and medicine. In this crossover episode, Dr. Felicia De La Garza Mercer discusses stress and burnout in the student population.

The Fog at Bay's complete first season is out now and features the voices of our graduate and medical school peers, as well as faculty. Stories touch on topics such as bipolar disorder, depression, and concussions. Catch it all on, iTunes, Facebook, or Soundcloud.  

November 02, 2015

65: The Enemy of my Enemy

In this episode, we learn about the war going on inside our bodies every day. We generally think of our immune systems as defending us from malicious, foreign attackers. But, as always with biology, we’re finding that it’s not that simple. In some cases, an apparent foe might turn out to be a friend, and vice versa. Here we bring you three different stories about how the immune system can be outsmarted, misdirected, and even re-engineered.

Part 1: Diplomatic Immunity
Our immune system is pretty good at hunting down most viruses. But there are a handful of viruses out there that can hide from our immune system for years. The jury is still out on what effect these dormant viruses have on our health. Surprisingly, it might be the case that some of these dormant viruses, like herpes, may actually have some positive benefits. For this piece, producer Meryl Horn talks with professor J.J. Miranda of the Gladstone Institute at UCSF, who explains his innovative approach in investigating this topic.

Part 2: A Can of Worms
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, developed countries became increasingly vulnerable to rampant immune system dysfunction, with ballooning rates of allergic and autoimmune disease. Why did this happen? A popular theory is that our hyper-clean environments, and the resulting lack of regular challenge to our immune systems - such as chronic parasitic infections - are causing our immune systems to misbehave. In this episode, producer Sam Ancona Esselmann sits down with Moises Velasquez Manoff, author of An Epidemic of Absence, to explore this dramatic rise in autoimmune and allergic diseases and to discuss the caveats of controversial therapies.

Part 3: T-Cells, 2.0
One of the reasons cancer is often so difficult to treat is because cancer cells are winning an “arms race” against our natural defenses. But what if we could give our immune system a tactical advantage? In T-cell immune therapy, T-cells are removed from cancer patients and modified so that they can hunt down specific cancer markers that they were previously unable to recognize. The T-cells, which can then both recognize and kill the cancer cells, are reintroduced into the patient. In this episode, our producer Tyler Ross sits down with scientist Levi Rupp, a member of Wendell Lim's lab at UCSF, who is hacking into our immune cells to fight cancer.

October 08, 2015

64: CTOR Bites - Good Vibrations: Love Songs from a Fly

For our second Bite, we sit down with Dr. Mala Murthy, a professor at Princeton University, who uses fruit fly songs to answer questions about how flies can respond dynamically to changing environments and how their brains are wired to carry out these behaviors.

Check out this video for a deeper understanding of Dr. Murthy's research!

More on the Murthy lab's research...

Produced by Sam Ancona Esselmann with editing help from Meryl Horn

August 12, 2015

CTOR Bites - Episode 1 - Sama Ahmed Three Minute Thesis

Carry The One Radio is now releasing shorter morsels of science in between our longer full length episodes! We call them, CTOR Bites. For our first Bite, our own Sama Ahmed summarizes 5 years of his research on evolutionary biology into exactly 3 minutes! It’s an adaptation of his award-winning entry into the University of California Three Minute Thesis competition. Stay curious!

  Produced by Ryan Jones and Sama Ahmed

July 01, 2015

Brain Meets Word: The Neuroscience Behind Communication

Tongues, songbirds and perfect fifths, oh my! Seemingly disparate subjects yes, but remarkably similar nonetheless. In this episode, we investigate some of the far corners of the neuroscience behind communication! We start with a simple question: how does the human brain coordinate all of the muscles that allow us to speak? In part 2, we learn how male songbirds perfect their mating calls and how all the single birds respond. And finally, a neuroscientist/professional opera-singer tells us about the mystery of musicality, and the science behind becoming a great musician.

Part One: “On the Tip of My Tongue”
The human brain precisely controls numerous muscles when we speak, but scientists know very little about how exactly this happens... Our producers Ryan Jones and Kate Woronowicz talk with David Conant, a doctoral student in Dr. Edward Chang’s lab at the University of California - San Francisco, about how patients with epilepsy are helping us unravel this great mystery.

Part Two: “A Bird Song to Remember”
Spring is in the air and with it, a cacophony of bird songs. But these birds aren’t born knowing how to sing. It’s only after the brain goes through complex chemical dances that these males can attract their perfect mates. Listen to Peter Chisnell talk with Dr. Gregory Ball, neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, about how hormones refine male bird songs and in turn, how these songs change birds’ brains.

Part Three: “The Sound of Music(ality)”
Practice makes perfect, but is that all it takes to become a great musician? Lynn Wang talks to Dr. Indre Viskontas, neuroscientist and professional musician, about her research studying how musicality works. At the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Indre teaches “Training the Musical Brain,” a class where students learn how to practice basic music perceptual skills. In addition, she’s interested in understanding how elements such as emotion and expression make us better musicians.

February 01, 2015

HIV - The Sneaky Intruder

Each summer, The Gladstone Institutes places high school students in some of the best labs for the study of heart disease, brain disorders, virology and immunology. The students work alongside scientists where they learn to conduct cutting-edge experiments,

This past summer, we teamed up with Gladstone to mentor two of the students, Hanan Sinada and Kainat Shaikh. After their day in the lab, they met with our producers Kate Woronowicz and Yelena Kulik to learn how to create a podcast episode about their experience. Today’s episode is written and produced by Kainat, a student at Burton High School. Kainat shares what she learned about HIV, what she called “The Sneak Intruder".

producer: Kainat Shaikh, Burton High School

January 15, 2015

Hope for Traumatic Brain Injury: Susanna Rosi

Susanna Rosi
The brain is an astonishingly complex organ. Injury to the brain in the form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause learning and memory problems in the short-term and dementia in the long-term. Over 1.7 million individuals experience TBI in the United States every year. Unfortunately, there are currently only symptomatic treatments for TBIs. We talked to Dr. Susanna Rosi, Associate Professor at UCSF, about her research into new treatments for TBIs.

More on the Rosi Lab's research

Producer: Amanda Mason
Music credits:
From Free Music Archive,, 
“Drifts” by The OO-Ray – under CC by license

November 18, 2014

Evading the Immune System

Although our immune system is amazing at what it does, there are complex cases where the it fails us. Everyday, our bodies fight off hordes of bacteria and viruses that cause disease. When fighting cancer, our bodies even face their own cells that have gone rogue. However, certain pathogens and cancers manage to circumvent our immune system.

We talked to Dr. John Wherry, associate professor of microbiology and director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Pennsylvania, about how the immune system is circumvented and what is being done about it.

More on the Wherry Lab's research

Producer: Lynn Wang
Editing: Bryan Seybold and Austin Chou

October 01, 2014

Developing the Germ Cell

Cells are the building blocks of life…and need to be transformed into the various tissues that make up our body. There are two main populations of cells that are programmed by a variety of biochemical forces to acquire the characteristics of different cell types in the body. One population, called the somatic cells, is eventually transformed into skin, muscle, bones and such. The other population, called germ cells, becomes sperm and eggs.

In today’s episode, Karuna Meda interviews Dr. Nam Tran (UCSF) about his research on germ cell development and its importance for understanding fertility.

Artist Name Track
Podington Bear Low Jack
saQi Quest’s End
The Polish Ambassador Earthship
Sandro Kait Blame Me

September 01, 2014

Trends in Translational Medicine

Under the banner of “Accelerating Research to Improve Health,” the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of California, San Francisco -- the leading university exclusively focused on health -- is part of a shift in biomedical research.

This move involves a focus on translational, or bench-to-bedside research, which aims to “translate” biomedical discoveries into useful applications and treatments, such as a drug, device, diagnostic or behavioral intervention, that improves human health and health outcomes.

This podcast series is presented by the CTSI and Carry the One Radio – the Science Podcast. CTSI is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. This series was written and produced by Sama Ahmed and Karuna Meda, and edited by John Daigre and Carly Van Orsdel.

August 15, 2014

The Neuroscience of Pacific Rim

Keith Foster, leader of the funk band “Big Pimp Jones”, invites CTOR’s host, Sama Ahmed, to talk about the neuroscience of the giant-monster movie, Pacific Rim. Sama in turn calls up his neuroengineering friend, Joey Martinez, from the University of Utah to tag team this issue.

Guest: Sama Ahmed (CTOR/UCSF) and Joan Martinez (University of Utah)
Host: Keith Foster (Nerdometrics)

August 01, 2014

Failing Frontal Lobes

Bruce Miller
In today's episode, Amanda Mason, our newest producer and an MD/PhD student here at UCSF, interviews Dr. Bruce Miller, the director of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center. Dr. Miller's clinic is considered one of the best places in the world for dementia diagnosis and treatment. He shares his perspective on frontotemporal dementia, a devastating brain disorder that affects personality, empathy, and language—and the search for a cure.

Also check out the more detailed producer's cut.

More on the Miller Lab's research

July 01, 2014

Sound Off (Part 3) - Love Songs of a Spider (Hosted by Dr. Kiki): Erin Brandt

Ever wonder how male spiders communicate their love songs? How they sing and dance? This is the last episode in our three-part series from Sound Off, our live show on the science of sound. Dr. Kiki from This Week in Science interviews Erin Brandt (Elias lab at UC Berkeley) about her research on the vibratory communication of jumping spiders.

Make sure to check out this article about Erin Brandt’s work, written by our friends over at the Berkeley Science Review (video included!)

More on the Brandt Lab's research

Hosted by Ben Cohn, Austin Chou, and Kirsten Sanford (Dr. Kiki)

June 15, 2014

Sound Off (Part 2) - Auditory Feedback and The Donald Duck Treatment (Hosted by Dr. Kiki): John Houde

John Houde
Dr. Kiki (This Week in Science) interviews Dr. John Houde about how changing what the brain hears can alter what it says. The two discuss how fooling the brain into thinking you sound like Donald Duck can be an effective treatment for people who speak with a stutter.

This is the second of a three-part series from "Sound Off!”, Carry the One Radio’s first live show, which took place at UCSF on May 29, 2014.

More on the Houde Lab's research

Produced by: Ben Cohn, Austin Chou, and Kirsten Sanford

June 01, 2014

Sound Off (Part 1) - Noisy Birds and Giggling Hyenas (Hosted by Dr Kiki): Frédéric Theunissen

Dr. Kiki (This Week in Science) interviews Dr. Frederic Theunissen. The two talk about his research on sound communication in social birds and hyenas

This is the first of a three-part series from "Sound Off!”, Carry the One Radio’s first live show, which took place at UCSF on May 29, 2014. Stay tuned for the other episodes!

More on the Theunissen Lab's research

Hosted by Ben Cohn, Austin Chou, and Kirsten Sanford (Dr. Kiki)

May 15, 2014

Massive issues: Brian Koberlein

Carry the One Ready collaborates with Dr. Brian Koberlein to bring you an audio production of his segment“Massive Issues”.

In this episode, Dr. Koberlein explains the different types of mass, and how their impact in the field of astrophysics.

Find more astrophysics on his blog: Brian Koberlein: One Universe at a Time

Sound Credits:
Shaker (Quantity Mass) - kwazi
Bass60bpm (Passive Graviational Mass) - UncleSigmund
Space Orc Atmo (Hadron Collider segment) - stk13
Car_StartDriveAway (Time Dilation segment) - kbnevel
Tuning AM radio (Time Dilation segment) - CGEffex
NASA Shuttle Launch Countdown (Space segment) - JimiMod
shuttle launch (Space segment) - klangfabrik
Deep Space (Space segment) - alaupas
Low Creepy Hole (Black Hole Segment) - Robinhood76

Hosted by Austin Chou

May 01, 2014

Carry the One Radio takes on Goggles Optional: Goggles Optional

Our science podcast friends at Stanford’s Goggles Optional have invited us to make a guest appearance on their show. Carry the One Radio team members Sama, Karuna, Liz, and Samantha joined Lisl, Trisha, Diego, and David from Goggles Optional. We had a head-to-head science-podcast-battle in the game categories Weakest Link, Team Real or Fake, and Google’s Optional (not a typo!). We also discussed evolution and fruit fly research.

Goggles Optional is a weekly science podcast based out of Stanford University. They cover a myriad of interesting science topics you won’t hear about in your typical feed, and they are a lot of fun to listen to. We highly recommend you check them out on their website.

Hosted by Osama Ahmed, Karuna Meda, Liz Unger, and Samantha Ancona Esselmann

April 15, 2014

Getting in Touch with Emotions: Yelena Kulik

This CTOR Short by our producer Yelena Kulik examines how well (or not) people can convey emotions such as anger, love, and sympathy via touch. We eavesdrop on participants in the Berkeley Science Review's “Touch Me!” Event, which took place at the 2013 Bay Area Science Festival. We try to identify "best practices" for communicating emotions and we explore what happens when communication goes awry.

April 01, 2014

Run! for your brain: Gary Westbrook

Gary Westbrook
At one point in your middle school or high school biology class, you may have learned that the number of neurons in your brain is set at birth. For examples your skin cells are constantly dying and being renewed. Your brain cells, on the other hand, cannot be renewed once they die.

In the last decade, however, scientists have discovered that this is not entirely true. A part of the brain called the hippocampus is one of the few sites for adult neurogenesis (the production of neurons after birth). Here, neurons are constantly being produced throughout life and incorporated into the current network of neurons. Interestingly, this part of the brain is important for the formation of episodic memories. Our guest this week, Gary Westbrook, Senior Scientist and Co-Director at the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health and Science University, is working to understand this important process. His lab is interested in what causes the production of new neurons and the incorporation of these neurons into existing neuronal networks. They have found that simple exercise is enough to increase the production of new neurons in rodents. Tune in to hear more about this vital and fascinating process.

More on the Westbrook Lab's research

March 15, 2014

Chimeras are People Too: Kate Woronowicz

You may think that all of your cells contain the same genetic sequence, with half of your DNA coming from your mom and half coming from your dad, but that is not always true. This CTOR short will introduce you to chimeras, hybrid creatures with more that one genome, that can be man-made or naturally occurring.

Check out the CTOR interview with Dr. Rich Schneider who uses chimeras as a research tool.

CTOR also has a blog post about chimeras and genetic mosaics.

Hosted by Kate Woronowicz

March 01, 2014

How Neurons Talk to Each Other - The Synapse and More: Susan Voglmaier

Your thoughts, decisions, emotions, and actions – essentially everything you do—relies on the incredibly complex circuits within your brain. Within these circuits, neurons signal to each other through a process called synaptic neurotransmission, whereby chemicals released by one neuron bind to receptors that are located on a neighboring neuron. This extremely complicated process requires an orchestra of protein interactions and is tremendously quick, taking place over about two thousandths of a second.

Given the importance of synaptic neurotransmission in how circuits function, and the role of circuits in cognition, it is not surprising that defects in synaptic transmission are thought to underlie mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Today, we talk to Dr. Susan Voglmaier, a practicing psychiatrist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF. Dr. Voglmaier’s lab is interested in the process by which proteins called transporters prepare neurotransmitters for neurotransmission. Her research provides new insights into the basic molecular machinery underlying synaptic transmission, what might go awry in psychiatric disease, and, potentially, future ways to treat these diseases.

More on the Voglmaier Lab's research

Hosted by Karuna Meda

February 15, 2014

The Cat Who Broke his Sweet Tooth: Samantha Ancona Esselmann

Maverick the Cat

Carry the One Radio

Feb. 15, 2014 (Hosted by Samantha Ancona Esselmann)

This is our first "CTOR Short"! Our producer Samantha Ancona Esselmann explores why her cat Maverick cannot taste sweet foods.

February 01, 2014

Tapping into the Brain's Avoidance Centers: Garret Stuber

Traditionally, dopamine is known to transmit reward signals (food, sex, etc.) in the brain and promote behaviors that lead to that reward again. What you may not know, however, is that the area of the brain that releases dopamine, the ventral midbrain, also receives signals of aversion (things we find unpleasant or even dangerous) from a far-off brain region called the lateral habenula. These avoidance signals promote behaviors that lead us to avoid unpleasant or dangerous things in the world.

These brain circuits are necessary for survival and are the focus of Dr. Garret Stuber and his laboratory at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Using a tool known as optogenetics, Dr. Stuber can excite specific populations of neurons within mouse brains and observe their effects on behavior. For example, by stimulating the neurons in the lateral habenula that signal aversion, he can cause mice to avoid the location in which they received that stimulation. He is essentially creating an aversive stimulus by stimulating the neurons that would normally respond to harmful or unpleasant cues in the world. His work has important implications in addiction and psychiatric disorders

More on the Stuber Lab's research

Hosted by Osama Ahmed

January 01, 2014

Speaking with the Lizard Man: Eric Pianka

Eric Pianka
This month, in collaboration with the Age of Discovery podcast, we talk to Eric Pianka, an American ecologist known for his work on the community ecology of desert lizards and his classic textbook, Evolutionary Ecology. Dr. Pianka discusses how his interests in biology and reptiles were sparked in elementary school, and the experiences and relationships that have propelled his scientific career.

This program was hosted by Adrian Smith, an ant biologist at the University of Illinois. Adrian runs his own biology podcast called the Age of Discovery.

More on the Pianka Lab's research

December 01, 2013

Pulling DNA: Sophie Dumont

Sophie Dumont
When a cell divides (called a parent cell), it provides complete copy of genes to each new cell that is formed (called daughter cells). This complicated process occurs repeatedly to accomplish an organism's development, repair, and replenishment. To reliably split the DNA correctly requires an orchestra of microscopic interactions among many molecules. While we know many of the molecules involved, scientists still know relatively little about the mechanical interactions that underlie this process. Our guest this month, Sophie Dumont, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell and Tissue Biology at UCSF, hopes to understand these interactions. Specifically, her lab is working to understand how the chromosome (an organized structure of DNA) is divided and segregated into separate daughter cells. Her work has implications in various developmental disorders and cancer, which can result from errors in cell division. At the end of our talk she discusses the what it’s like to be a woman in science and gives advice to listeners interested in a career in science.

Music in this Episode: Lacrymae - Melodium, Bird’s Lament – Moon Dog, and Push and Pull – Rufus Thomas

More on the Dumont Lab's research

Hosted by Karuna Meda

October 21, 2013

Exploring the Zombie Brain: Brad Voytek

No, zombies are not real (at least not yet), but that does not mean we can’t enjoy analyzing their mental capacities. This is the work of Brad Voytek, scientist at UCSF and our guest this month on Carry the One Radio. When Brad isn’t busy with his scientific research mapping the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that makes us human, he “studies” the effects of zombification on the brain. He uses this work as a fun way to teach neuroscience. Listen as Brad describes the zombie brain and how it can help us teach how the human brain might work.

More on the Voytek Lab's research

Hosted by Sama Ahmed.

October 01, 2013

The big role of microRNAs in the immune system: Mark Ansel

The key to understanding our immune system might lie in understanding microRNAs. These are tiny strings of nucleotides (the same molecules that makes DNA) that influence how and which genes are expressed. This month we talk with Dr. Mark Ansel, an Assistant Professor in the UCSF Department of Microbiology & Immunology, about his work on these recently discovered molecules and their role in helping the body protect itself.

Within the cell, most RNA is produced from our DNA (genes) and translated to make proteins that help the cell function. microRNAs are produced from DNA but don’t make proteins. Instead, microRNAs ensure that the right genes are translated under the right conditions. microRNAs work in the immune system by helping a type of white blood cell, known as a T-cell, which regulate the production of antibodies that bind and destroy cellular invaders. The set of microRNAs that Dr. Ansel and his lab studies regulate genes that let T-cells recognize their environment and start the production of the correct antibodies. He has found that without these microRNAs, T-cells cannot properly mediate immunity. Dr. Ansel's work has important implications in understanding the immune system and what possibly goes wrong in diseases like HIV and AIDS. At the end of our interview, he talks about what motivates him most in science—the thrill of discovery.

Music: Kevin MacLeod: J. S. Bach: Prelude in C - BWV 846
More on the Ansel Lab's research
Hosted by Samantha Ancona Esselmann

September 01, 2013

How to become a heart cell: Benoit Bruneau

Benoit Bruneau
Gladstone Institute for Cardiovascular Disease
 (Hosted by Osama Ahmed)

Our bodies are made up of around 200 different cell types with very different structures and functions. Paradoxically, every cell contains the same genetic material. During development, proteins called transcription factors turn specific genes on and off. This can force a cell to develop into a brain cell rather than a skin cell, for example. But, when the right genes fail to turn on or when the wrong genes are expressed, developmental defects can occur.
Out guest this month, Dr. Benoit Bruneau, a Senior Investigator at the Gladstone Institute for Cardiovascular Disease, wants to know what makes a heart cell a heart cell. His lab is interested in how these different regulators interact, which factors are required for proper heart development, and which are altered in disease. This work answers important questions about how genes direct development, and it has potential applications for future therapies for heart disease.

More on the Bruneau Lab's research

August 15, 2013

The surprising health benefits of Botox (Part 2): Edwin Chapman

In the second part of our talk with Dr. Chapman, we discuss the positive effects that botulinum toxin A, otherwise known as Botox, can have in combating a number of medical conditions. You will be surprised by how often Botox is used for non-cosmetic procedures. It is prescribed for carpal tunnel syndrome, stuttering, excess sweating, cervical dystonia, and other debilitating conditions. Botulinum toxin A works by cleaving proteins important for cell communication (as discussed in Part 1), but exactly how it acts through the nervous system is unclear. Dr. Chapman’s lab has discovered that neurotoxins such as botulinum toxin A can be absorbed by neurons through vesicles at one end of the cell and be transported backward to the neurons connected to it on the other end of the cell, affecting specific proteins in long chains of cells. His research provides important insights into the mechanism of how this useful toxin works.

More on the Chapman Lab's research

Hosted by Sama Ahmed and Sam Ancona Esselmann

August 01, 2013

The cell's fusion machinery (Part 1) : Edwin Chapman

This month, in our first two-part episode, we talk about vesicle fusion with Dr. Edwin Chapman, a Howard Hughes investigator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Vesicles are small balloons within the cell that can carry a variety of material ranging from proteins to cellular waste. They are also important message-delivery machines that allow neurons to communicate with each other. Through an extremely fast and complicated process known as synaptic vesicle exocytosis, vesicles containing neurotransmitters fuse with the neuron's membrane, releasing packets of neurotransmitter that will bind to the receptors on a neighboring neuron. This process is the basis of nearly all neuron-to-neuron communication and, consequently, underlies our thoughts and behavior. Using different techniques, Dr. Chapman hopes to provide a better understanding of the structure, function, and dynamics of this poorly understood but fundamental process.

More on the Chapman Lab's research
More information on vesicle exocytosis

Producer: Osama Ahmed, Samantha Ancona Esselmann