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


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

Crowd sourcing science

cropped-citizen-science-2.jpgCrowd funding projects has become a common phenomenon in today’s world, but crowd sourced science? What does that even mean?! This means that the public can contribute to scientific research – through the form of both data and ideas for advancements. It is commonly called citizen science, with the people doing it dubbed citizen scientists. With the rise of technological advancements, this is becoming more prevalent in our world today, and will likely play an integral role in the way that science progresses in the future. 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

Would you get your genome sequenced?

DNA manThe Human Genome Project (HGP) was completed in 2003, giving us insight into the impact of genetics on the functioning – and malfunctioning – of a human being. As the technology advances, sequencing someone’s genome has become more and more affordable – down from 100 million USD in 2001 to “just” 1000 USD in 2015. New technologies have also made smaller sequencing projects feasible, to the level where it could soon become an integral part of the public health system. Continue reading