The first man to be cured of HIV

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He wasn’t born to be a public speaker. A slight man, he stood before us, telling his story. He was the first man to be cured of HIV.  It wasn’t the conventional approach to a cure. This man, Timothy Ray Brown, also popularly known as the “Berlin Patient” had been cured of HIV as a by-product of being treated for leukaemia. Continue reading

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Long term thinking and the antibiotic resistance crisis

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Adapted from a photo by Fredrik Rubensson

There was the email: I would like to invite you to our July event Getting Cozy with Catastrophe: Superbugs, Drug Resistance … When I received an invitation to a talk on antibiotic resistance, I have to admit, I was initially a little bit uninspired by the topic. If you’ve been in a biological field for long enough, you kinda know the antibiotic resistance story. But then I looked a little closer at the write-up. Superbugs, Drug Resistanceand the Power of Long Term Thinking. “Ah,” I thought. “Maybe there will be something new to bring to the table.” And so it was that when on July 5th, Women in Tech Cape Town hosted a TechTalk with drug resistance scientist Dr Imogen Wright as the speaker, I was sitting in the audience, with my pen at the ready. Continue reading

White hat hacking to combat disease

white hat hacking to combat disease (2)Information can be hacked – unfortunate as it is, it’s true. And interestingly, hacking can take place not only on the internet, but also within your very cells. Viruses use our genetic information against us to make more of themselves – a form of molecular hacking. However, hacking doesn’t always imply something bad. Just as there are white hat hackers, there is also good molecular hacking. Continue reading

Difficult conditions can be difficult to study: the journey of a little white pill

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The problems with human subjects
Credit: xkcd

It all starts with a cause. Of course it does. Be it malaria, Alzheimer’s or something else – there is a reason to start looking for a cure. Sometimes, it’s easy. Traditional healing plants are obvious avenues for drug discovery. Sometimes, it’s hard. What do you do when bacteria become resistant to all known drugs? Or if you just don’t understand a disease enough to develop something that will target the underlying cause rather than just the symptoms. Whatever road is taken, drug development has to tick certain boxes, and contend with certain politics, before a pill ends up in your bathroom cabinet. Continue reading

Bacteria antibiotic resistance, and a possible solution – Part 2

cropped-bacteria-426997_1920.jpgThe danger with writing “Part 1” at the end of any post title is the fact that you have to follow up on your threat… I mean, promise. Last time we looked at how bacterial antibiotic resistance can occur. Antibiotic resistance poses a huge public health problem, with notable diseases, such as tuberculosis, being resistant to multiple drugs. Which is obviously REALLY BAD! So what do we do about it? Continue reading

Bacteria antibiotic resistance, and a possible solution – Part 1

cropped-bacteria-426997_1920.jpgIt’s been a while since I wrote. Life has been crazy, as life sometimes is. But I came across a cool video clip a little while ago, and then an amazing discovery which just happened to tie in with this video appeared. I’ll look at this in two posts, so that it’s not too much to digest (or write!) at once. So let’s talk about bacterial antibiotic resistance. Continue reading

CRISPR: How genome editing will change the world forever

syringe-1884779_1920Genetic modification in one form or another has been around for centuries. With the passage of time, we have seen the progression from breeding and selection to inserting genes into other organisms so that they can make things for us (think insulin). On September 7th, KAT-O hosted a TechTalk in Cape Town, where speaker Dr Janine Scholefield presented a talk on an exciting new technology, called CRISPR/Cas9. Continue reading