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

Sept. 1, 2013 (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.

Our 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

July 01, 2013

Evolution of the deer mouse: Hopi Hoekstra

The way an organism looks and behaves is influenced by the genes it inherits. Through a process known as natural selection, genetic traits that are helpful for survival are passed to future generations, while traits that are less useful are selected out. For example, a fish that swims faster than another is more likely to escape from predators, reproduce, and pass down various inherited traits than its slower counterparts.

Hopi Hoekstra, a professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, and our guest this month on CTOR, is studying a longstanding question in biology: how do genes contribute to evolutionary adaptations? Listen as Dr. Hoekstra talks about how her lab uses the deer mouse to study the genetic basis of coat color, and burrowing behaviors. In addition, her research has important connections to human genetics and behavior. The genes her lab studies that determine pigmentation in the deer mouse are the same genes that determine hair color and skin cancer susceptibility in humans. And while humans obviously don’t burrow, the genes that affect burrowing and exploratory behaviors in the deer mouse could affect motivation and anxiety in humans. At the end of our talk, Dr. Hoekstra’s discusses her interest in political science before switching to a career in science.

This interview is part of an ongoing collaboration between Carry the One Radio and the Women in Life Sciences (WILS) group at UCSF.

More on the Hoekstra Lab's research

Women in Life Sciences (WILS)

Hosted by Karuna Meda

June 01, 2013

How the bat brain knows its place: Michael Yartsev

The ability of animals to navigate through the world is essential for survival and has been studied by scientists for over 40 years. Scientists have identified neurons called “place cells” that reside in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. Individual place cells are active only when the animal is in a particular location in space, and populations of place cells work together to create an internal representation of the environment.

Up until now, experiments involving the hippocampus and place cells have been conducted in two-dimensional settings, often with rats running through a flat maze. Our guest this month, Dr. Michael Yartsev, a fellow at The Princeton Neuroscience Institute and previously the Weizmann Institute, is interested in how the 3D world is perceived in the brain. He hopes to figure this out by recording activity from place cells in the brains of flying bats. Listen as Dr. Yartsev describes this unique system to study an old question.

Hosted by Osama Ahmed, Karuna Meda

May 01, 2013

Our protective microbiome: Susan Lynch

Believe it or not, we are made up of more microbes than human cells. In fact, for every human cell that makes up our body, there are nine times more bacteria, viruses, or fungi living on our skin, gut, or lungs. However, most of these microbes are not the kind that will make us sick. Most are harmless and, in some cases, even protective against diseases like Crohn’s disease and chronic sinusitis.
The function of many of these microbes is beginning to be understood by scientists like Dr. Susan Lynch, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California - San Francisco and our guest this month on Carry the One Radio. Listen as Dr. Lynch describes her work on the microbiome, how it develops, and its role in health and disease.

This episode is also part of our ongoing collaboration with our friends over at Youreka Science. They make science make sense, and they have covered one of Dr. Lynch's recent publications on the microbiome.

More on the Lynch Lab's research

An animated guide to some of Susan Lynch's work at Youreka Science

Hosted by Sama Ahmed

April 01, 2013

Exploring the Evolution and Development of the Vertebrate Skeleton: Rich Schneider

If you were asked to imagine how scientists study the way bones develop and grow, the last thing you might picture would be a quail-duck chimera. That is, unless you're Richard Schneider, associate professor in the department of orthopedic surgery at UCSF and our guest this month on Carry the One Radio.

Dr. Schneider and his lab have developed a system where stem cells from quail embryos are transplanted into duck embryos, and vice versa. The precursor cells from different species differ in growth speed and the structure of the bone they eventually create. His lab is interested in how these species-specific, developing cells interact with each other when they first meet. His findings may eventually lead to potential therapies for bone repair and regeneration.

More on the Schneider Lab's research

Host: Alex Mendelssohn

March 01, 2013

Neural circuits and motivational processes underlying hunger: Scott Sternson

This month on Carry the One Radio, we talk to Scott Sternson, a chemistry Ph.D-turned neuroscientist and scientist at Janelia Farms. Dr. Sternson is interested in what happens when we are hungry. He describes how a subset of neurons in a brain structure called the hypothalamus senses when the body is low on energy and motivates us to find food. By manipulating the electrical activity of specific neural populations and determining their effect on behavior, Dr. Sternson and his lab can map the function of the hypothalamus circuit. At the end of our talk, he discusses the importance of being self-critical of ones own ideas in science.

More on the Sternson Lab's research

Hosted by Karuna Meda

February 01, 2013

Towards personalized cancer treatments: Eric Collisson and Barry Taylor

Eric Collisson, Barry Taylor
This month on Carry the One Radio we talk with two scientists who are developing new strategies to treat cancer. Dr. Eric Collisson, a medical oncologist, and Dr. Barry Taylor, a computation biologist, have teamed up to identify and understand the complex signaling world that leads to cancer. Because of the complexity of these signaling pathways, two patients diagnosed with the same disease might need very different treatments. But by understanding the common pathways, Eric and Barry hope to eventually develop personalized therapies for cancer patients. Towards the end of our talk, they discuss the number one motivator for having a career in science.

More on the Collisson Lab's research More on the Taylor Lab's research

January 01, 2013

How does the brain motivate us to move?: Anatol Kreitzer

Anatol Kreitzer
Our guest this month is Anatol Kreitzer, assistant professor of physiology and neurology at UCSF and a scientist at the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institutes. Dr. Kreitzer has made pioneering discoveries in the study of the neural circuits that control movement. His lab is interested in the function of the basal ganglia, a structure deep in the brain that controls movement, motivation, and action selection. Dysfunction of the basal ganglia can lead to movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease where patients have difficulty either initiating or controlling movements.

To understand how the basal ganglia works, the Kreitzer lab records electrical activity from neurons within the basal ganglia and determines how it relates to movement in behaving mice. They can also control this activity using an emerging technique known as optogenetics. By delivering genes coding for light-sensitive proteins into specific neurons, scientists in the lab can manipulate the electrical activity of certain neurons to see how movement is affected. This technique is being used to study the cells in the basal ganglia that guide our actions based on previous experience. Dr. Kreitzer’s work has provided significant insights into how the basal ganglia works and may eventually lead to potential cures for movement disorders.

More on the Kreitzer Lab's research

Hosted by Osama Ahmed