#52 Bacteria and antibiotics – who’s the bad guy?

Martin Blaser, professor of medicine and microbiology at New York University

Martin Blaser, professor of medicine and microbiology at New York University

Obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease. Asthma, allergies, celiac disease. Have you ever wondered why their incidence is on the rise? Let’s consider obesity for a moment. In 1990, one in ten adults in the United States was overweight. Nowadays, that number has risen to one in three, and one in ten adults is obese. According to the World Health Organisation, the problem affects people worldwide, including those in underdeveloped countries, so fat-rich diets and increased food intake cannot be the only explanation.

Then why are we getting fatter?

Martin Blaser, professor of medicine and microbiology at New York University, has a theory. He believes that some of our modern medical practices are to blame. The main culprit? Antibiotics – or rather, the way we have abused these antibacterial drugs over the last 70 years. Each one of us hosts a collection of good bacteria, known as the microbiome, that keep us healthy by training our immune system, helping us digest food and making essential vitamins for us. But every time we take an antibiotic, we destroy some of our friendly microbes and perturb this useful alliance, with negative consequences for our health.

Who would have guessed that the same ‘miracle drugs’ that cure us from horrible, deadly infections would – in some ways – make us sicker?

Book Cover_English

 

In 2014, Martin Blaser wrote a book entitled “Missing Microbes”, an urgent call to action to stop damaging our precious microbes before it is too late. Martin Blaser visited Stockholm last year to celebrate the release of the Swedish translation of his book. On that occasion, he met our intern Federica Santoro to chat about our bacterial allies and how antibiotic abuse is damaging our health in ways we could never have imagined.

 

 

This episode is also available in Swedish.

And while you’re here… Did you know that bacteria can talk? Don’t miss our previous episode on bacterial chit-chat to find out all about it!

Listen to this episode’s playlist on Spotify:

  • Thomas Dolby – She blinded me with science
  • Bonafide – Sicker than I think
  • Everything But The Girl – Missing
  • Madness – Our House
  • Ennio Morricone – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
  • Superlux – Microbiota
  • Will And The People – Jekyll & Hyde
  • Blur – For Tomorrow
  • Jamiroquai – Emergency On Planet Earth
  • The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work
  • Squirrel Nut Zippers – Fat Cat Keeps Getting Fatter
  • Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’
  • Bob Dylan – Blowin’ In The Wind

This episode was produced with support from the Swedish Research Council Formas, the Swedish Association for Professional Scientists Naturvetarna and KI Career Service.
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#46 RadioScience meets A Capella Science

Tim Blais från A Capella Science

Tim Blais, physicist and musician, sings about science on YouTube. Picture: Tim Blais

”Art is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. They say very similar things about science. In art there is this technical aspect – it’s so much time and effort and hard work to get to that stage where you can interpret your insight into its full beauty and potential.”

A singing physicist on YouTube. That is a short description of Tim Blais, the person behind the project and YouTube-channel A Capella Science. Through song – and using his voice as the only instrument – he explains entropy, string theory and CRISPR, the molecular scissors we talked about in our previous episode.

We talked to Tim Blais about how he combines physics and musics and why one should bother combining science and art. He also reveals that he would like to work on a science-themed musical and explains why it is so cool to create music without instruments.

Listen on Libsyn!
Listen on iTunes!

This episode is also available in Swedish.

CRISPR/Cas9 - bring me a gene

CRISPR/Cas9 – bring me a gene. Picture: Tim Blais

A Capella Science is supported through crowdfunding and can be found on YouTubeSpotify and social media @acapellascience.

We included the following songs by A Capella Science in this episode – listen on YouTube:

This episode was produced with support from the Swedish Research Council Formas, the Swedish Association for Professional Scientists Naturvetarna and Karolinska Institutet’s Career Service.

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#42 Chit-chatting with bacteria

BonnieBassler-2

Bonnie Bassler, professor in molecular biology at Princeton University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Photo: Zachary Donnell.

“A big arm of my field now is to think about applications, so that we can either make bacteria do things on demand or stop bacteria from doing things on demand. And those are urgent problems that need solving. So this goofy bioluminescent bacteria led the way to us having this idea that we could never have had, if that bioluminescent bacteria hadn’t been studied.”

Drugs that stop bacteria from talking might be new, powerful antibiotics – a much needed weapon in our never-ending struggle against bacterial infections. On the other hand, drugs that make bacteria chat more could boost the production of biofuels and other industrial goods that bacteria make for us.

In 1990 a young Bonnie Bassler, mesmerized by glow-in-the-dark bacteria that could talk to their peers to coordinate light production, wondered whether other bacteria could talk too. The answer, she soon found out, was yes – including all the nasty bacteria that cause disease. Today, Bonnie Bassler is a professor in molecular biology at Princeton University and an authority in the field of bacterial communication.

Her findings, that all bacteria can talk, revolutionized the way we think of bacteria and opened the doors to important medical and industrial applications.

But the discovery of bacterial communication has given us much more than new drugs. It has shown us how bacteria live in the real world and forced us to reconsider our own human nature – if bacteria are talking, social beings too, how different are we from them after all?

Prick your ears up and follow RadioScience on an exciting tour of the bacterial world and its chatty multilingual inhabitants – after which, we promise, you will never call bacteria boring again!

This episode is also available in Swedish.

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After the interview, Bonnie Bassler poses with our intern Federica Santoro.

Bonnie Bassler is an all-round communicator. Not only does she like to talk to bacteria, she is also passionate about sharing her research with the public. In a memorable TED Talk in 2009, she captivated her audience with the tale of the tiny glow-in-the-dark bacterium that changed microbiology forever. In this episode of RadioScience, she tells us why she loves to engage in science communication. And why everyone should take an interest in science – don’t miss it!

Psssst… Remember our previous episode, where we told you about reviving mammoths with the help of a technology called CRISPR? Well, CRISPR is another wonderful product of bacteria! It is the immune system bacteria use to defend themselves from their enemies, now converted into a powerful gene-editing tool. Bacteria are truly full of wonders…

Listen to this episode’s playlist on Spotify:

  • Thomas Dolby – She blinded me with science
  • The Beatles – With a little help from my friends
  • Elvis Presley – A little less conversation
  • The Cure – Speak my language
  • Spandau Ballet – Communication
  • Led Zeppelin – Communication breakdown
  • Gospel Dream – This little light of mine
  • Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Blinded by the light
  • Bryan Ferry – Let’s stick together
  • Harry Nilsson – Everybody’s talking
  • Coldplay – Talk
  • The Beatles – Come together
  • Pink Floyd – Keep talking
  • The Minions – Make ‘em laugh
  • The Minions – Another Irish drinking song

This episode was produced with support from the Swedish Research Council Formas, the Swedish Association for Professional Scientists Naturvetarna and Karolinska Institutet’s Career Service.

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#33 Soccermatics – the science of football

UPPSALA 2013-12-20 David Sumpter, profesor i matematik vid Uppsala universitet. Foto Fredrik Funck / DN / TT / Kod 3505 ** SVD OUT **

David Sumpter, professor in mathematics at Uppsala University.
Photo: Fredrik Funck

”What could be more fun than writing a book that combined the hobby that I loved with the work that I loved? So I decided to write the book that combined football and maths. And what was first written as a sort of joke, became the introduction to Soccermatics.”

David Sumpter has two passions: mathematics and football. When he decided to write a popular science book he discovered that football is a very mathematical sport, maybe the most mathematical of them all. From the triangles created by playing a one-two to the geometry of formations, from the dynamics of passing to the synchronisation of defences. The strategies adopted by managers both to beat the opposition and to get their teams to work together.

Listen to David Sumpter when he explains that Barcelona’s dynamic movements are similar to the movement of fish schools, Bayern Munich’s defending is similar to hunting by lionesses, Dutch total football became more than the sum of its parts in the same way as ant colonies perform better when the ants co-operate and that a manager’s tactics evolve in the same way as birds behaviour does.

In this episode David Sumpter tells us more about his work with the book and how we can use the generated knowledge to create a better and more exciting game.

This episode is also available in Swedish.

 

41j2SXHBItLDavid Sumpter is professor in mathematics at Uppsala University and does research on collective animal behaviour, social dynamical systems and outreach and analytics. Nowadays he is even a football journalist, contributing to the Magazine FourFourTwo, the Telegraph and The Economist. He is on Twitter och his book is available here in English.

 

 

 

 

David’s choice of music in this episode – listen on Spotify:

  • Three Lions – Baddiel. Skinner & Lightning Seeds
  • Belle & Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap
  • Robyn – Hang with me
  • The Ark – Calleth You, Cometh I

This episode was produced with the support of Formas, the Swedish research council for sustainable development, and Naturvetarna, the Swedish Assocation of Professional Scientists.

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