Blogging about science

OK. It has been ages since I posted last. I just saw this article and though it was a good place to start. In the fungal pathogen world, there is a lot of debate about "what makes a pathogen" - basically, many of the human fungal pathogens out there are considered "opportunists" in that in a normal human host they are not able to cause disease. Well at least rarely are they a problem in healthy people. MFF (my fav fungus) Coccidioides is a bit more of a bear in that respect- it really does infect and kill healthy people. But a bit of an outlier.

This article reviews what is known about genomic differences between a bread mold and a pathogen. Really, there is not that much difference (and never mind that occasionally the bread mold WILL cause disease) but there are some trends that pop out. The ability to: stick to surfaces, be resistant to anti-fungal drugs, and basically be flexible- in your food source, your genetic make up and your morphology.

Another nice aspect is that the article is open source! Devour at will!



Why Basic Research needs to be funded

So often I end up writing statements in grants such as "My research will cure (insert favorite cause here)." And I always feel a little weird about it. Because it certainly could be true, however much more likely is that my research will have little immediate effect. This is because I do basic research.

This article in Infection and Immunity really said it well. It is by Fang and Casadevall, accepted ahead of print. I know not everyone will be able to download this directly, but find it if you can, it is an amazing read.

In short, basic research is necessary in and of itself. We cannot predict the effect of a discovery. How would we have known that studying telomeres could lead to an understanding of aging, for example? So, when you hear politicians talk about "pork barrel spending" and "ridiculous research" that they get from a title of a grant, think about my favorite quote from their paper:

"We didn’t know at the time that there were any particular disease implications. We were just interested in the fundamental questions. . . (this) is really a tribute to curiosity-driven basic science"

--Nobel Laureate Carol Greider