Category Archives: DNA

Learn about Cellular Engineering and Low Cost Medical Devices with Dr Andrew Ellington

Commander Ben and Dr. Andrew Ellington talk about cellular biology and more fun stuff at UT Austin.

Commander Ben and Dr. Andrew Ellington talk about cellular biology and more fun stuff at Dr. Ellington’s UT Austin lab office.

I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Andrew Ellington to talk about his Diagnosing Ourselves: Take Two Assays and Don’t Call me in the Morning lecture. His presentation is part of the great Hot Science – Cool Talks lecture series that’s hosted by the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Ellington is a Professor of Biochemistry with the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology at UT Austin, and his talk focused on his work in developing low-cost, personalized diagnostics and the creation of virtual clinical trials through social networks to improve healthcare on a global scale. His presentation completed the great series of lectures for the Spring 2013 semester, and it was a great one!

Video interview series

I interviewed Dr. Ellington in his office at his laboratory on the UT Austin campus.  His lab was amazing.  It was huge with lots of activity.  When Dr. Ellington and I sat down to talk, he turned the tables on me!  😉 He started asking me the questions!!  I was so nervous, but I did my best to recall my science facts.

It was actually a lot of fun talking with him and Dr. Ellington is an amazing teacher!  But Dr. Ellington likes to think of himself as more of a mentor than a teacher, since he believes that it is the students who, in a way, teach themselves to absorb the information that they are exposed to by a mentor–which is so true.

I hope you’ll enjoy my series of video interviews with Dr. Ellington.  He shares lots of great information about evolutionary techniques to engineer biopolymers and cells.  It is quite an education…like having the privilege of being in one of his classes at UT!

(1) Evolutionary techniques in cellular engineering

Is it as simple as DNA makes RNA makes protein? Dr. Ellington describes cellular and molecular biology, including how the process of evolution helps make beneficial mutations more dominant.

Unfortunately, mistakes can and do occur during cellular replication. Dr. Ellington addresses other bad mutations that can also occur through environmental concerns, such as ionizing radiation, and mutagens, such as cigarettes.

Dr. Ellington also discusses sequenced versus non-sequenced polymers and the possibility of life originating from matrixes, a theory advanced by the Seven Clues to the Origin of Life book.

(2) Letting cellular mutations duke it out

Ever wonder how to use evolutionary techniques to engineer biopolymers? Is it okay to let cellular mutations duke it out? Are 99% of all mutations bad?

Dr. Andrew Ellington talks about how there are more bad mutations than good, but many mutations are neutral, allowing bacteria to drift along until they find a good place, which may help them over time get to be the most awesomeness bacteria ever.

(3) Future of low cost medical diagnostic tests

Dr. Andrew Ellington talks about the types of low cost diagnostic tests that are available now and those that might be available in the future, including new blood sugar monitors with needles so small that users can’t even feel them.

His goal is to make more tests available at lower cost to help them become more widely used and to create fun tests that can help people learn more about themselves.

(4) Is it possible to create a Star Trek Tricorder?

Dr. McCoy had a lot of cool diagnostic devices. Dr. Andrew Ellington explains some of the obstacles to creating a Star Trek-like medical Tricoder with our current technology, and he gives a glimpse of how sensors the size of molecules could be used in the future. You’ll also learn about Dr. Ellington’s favorite computer games.

Event day highlights

How invasive species can spread disease poster session

How invasive species can spread disease poster session

For the prelecture fair, I prepared a poster board explaining how invasive species can spread disease.

Mr. Geoffrey Hensgen, Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, and Dr. Andrew Ellington at Hot Science - Cool Talks

Mr. Geoffrey Hensgen, Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, and Dr. Andrew Ellington at Hot Science – Cool Talks

Thanks Dr. Jay Banner, Director, and Mr. Geoffrey Hensgen, Outreach Coordinator, for the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas for the great lectures and chance to talk with great and leading scientists.

Dr. Ellington’s lecture was the last one for the Hot Science – Cool Talks Spring 2013 lecture series, but I know they’ll be back this fall for another great set of science talks and presentations that you’ll won’t want to miss! 🙂

Additional resources

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Andrew Ellington, Biochemistry, Cellular biology, cellular engineering, Cellular evolution, Diagnosing Ourselves, DNA, Environmental Science Institute, Healthcare, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Molecular biology, Mutagen, Mutation, Proteins, RNA, Take Two Assays and Don't Call me in the Morning, University of Texas, UT Austin

Talking about epigenetics with Dr. Mark Clanton

Ever since I saw a NOVA program about epigenetics, I’ve been interested about how our environment can change our DNA.

In my latest video with Dr. Mark Clanton, we learn more about epigenetics and how scientists are trying to understand how our genes can change or be damaged based on the exposures that we have during life, such as what we eat, radiation, smoking, etc.

Dr. Clanton also talks about CH3 methyl groups that you can pick up when eating certain types of food and their affect on DNA methylation and our epigenome.

Interview series with Dr. Clanton

This is the third part in my interview series with Dr. Clanton, who is the chief medical officer of the High Plains Division of the American Cancer Society and who was the deputy director of the United States National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

Watch other videos in this interview series:

Dr. Clanton’s talk, “The War on Cancer: 41 Years after Nixon’s Declaration“, was part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series.

Spring 2013 Hot Science – Cool Talks

Happy new year!

There are some great Hot Science – Cool Talks presentations coming up this spring from the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute:

(1) Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico: The History and Future of the Texas Coast

Tuesday, January 8, 2013, 7:00 p.m. CT

The Gulf of Mexico has seen some of the most destructive hurricanes on record.  What can residents in the Gulf region expect future storms to be like? Dr. Kerry A. Emanuel will share his groundbreaking research on how climate change can affect hurricane activity and discuss its implications for the Gulf region.

(2) Environmental Justice:  Progress towards Sustainability

Friday, February 22, 2013, 7:00 p.m. CT

Dr. Robert Bullard will present an insightful account of events, individuals, and organizations that have shaped the environmental justice movement over the past two decades. He will also describe a framework for how major advances in environmental justice can and should be achieved.

(3) Diagnosing Ourselves: Biotechnology in Your Back Pocket

Thursday, April 4, 2013, 7:00 p.m. CT

What advances are being made to allow people without medical training to readily detect things like viruses? Can such biotechnology help us understand our own unique physiology?  Dr. Andy Ellington will discuss exciting advances in low-cost, personalized diagnostics and the promise of creating virtual clinical trials through social networks to improve healthcare on a global scale.

If you’re not in Austin, Texas, that’s okay. You can also watch a live webcast of the talks from wherever you’re at! 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under American Cancer Society, Cancer, DNA, DNA methylation, Dr. Mark Clanton, Environmental Science Institute, epigenetics, epigenome, Genes, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Nova, University of Texas, UT Austin, War on Cancer

How Does Lifestyle Affect Your Cancer Risk?

What kind of life choices may reduce your risk for cancer or other illnesses? What are you eating? How much do you exercise? How do you interact with your environment? The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study – 3 (CPS-3) studies the impact of the environment on individuals through their genes.

Dr. Mark Clanton talks about CPS-3, and how the study is accepting participants to help understand how people’s decisions and their environment affects their DNA. The study is expect to last about 20-30 years, starting with an initial visit for measurements, a blood sample for DNA, and follow up questionnaires.

Many people may inherit genes that may make them susceptible to illness, but Dr. Clanton talks about how these genes are not turned on unless they are influenced by something in their environment, including their body weight, exercise, diet, and illnesses over time.

This is the second part in my interview series with Dr. Clanton, who is the chief medical officer of the High Plains Division of the American Cancer Society and who was the deputy director of the United States National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Clanton’s talk, “The War on Cancer: 41 Years after Nixon’s Declaration“, was part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under American Cancer Society, Body weight, Cancer, Cancer Prevention Study, CPS-3, Diet, DNA, Dr. Mark Clanton, Environmental Science Institute, Exercise, Genes, Hot Science - Cool Talks, University of Texas, UT Austin, War on Cancer

How Cancer Begins with Misbehaving DNA

Now that I’m done with my fall semester, and I’ve practiced and completed the test for my next Taekwondo belt, I’m getting caught up with my blog, especially to post my great video interviews with Dr. Mark Clanton for the most recent Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation, “The War on Cancer: 41 Years after Nixon’s Declaration“.

In the first part of my video interview, Dr. Clanton talks about his background as the chief medical officer of the High Plains Division of the American Cancer Society. He was also the deputy director of the United States National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Clanton also talks about how every cancer begins with misbehaving DNA. DNA interacts with our environment and can change after we are born. Watch this video to learn more about DNA’s master architect role and about some of the treatments, such as chemotherapy, for treating fast growing cancer cells.

This is the first video in my interview series with Dr. Clanton. I’ll be posting more videos this week with Dr. Clanton  where we’ll learn about how genes and epigenetics play a significant role in cancer and what we can do about it.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under American Cancer Society, Cancer, chemotherapy, DNA, Dr. Mark Clanton, epigenetics, Hot Science - Cool Talks, War on Cancer