Search Results for: BunsenBwog



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img November 18, 20154:01 pmimg 0 Comments *achoo*

Just…one…more…problem…set *achoo*

Does the cold got you feeling down? Be careful you don’t get sick. But if you end up feeling under the weather, you can take solace in Bunsen Burner Joanna Zhang’s report of what Columbians are doing regarding ebola, influenza forecasts, and malaria,

With the New York cold finally settling in, Bwog recommends bundling up and stay warm, or otherwise risking a bad cold that involves gross sniffles and constant coughing that can (in my case) last for a month. At this point, I’m ready to try whatever strange home remedies there are because I’ve probably lost half my friends from all this sneezing. On the positive side, at least I didn’t get ebola, the outbreak of which a team at Mailman School of Public Health has now modeled. The research team used data from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation to document the path of infection. Their model mainly made use of information on the home district of the Ebola patient such as population and geographic distant from nearby districts. This new method provides a less labor-intensive way to trace the rate of spread than contact tracing. While it’s too late to apply this model, future models generated through the same method has the potential to greatly aid health efforts for new disease outbreaks.

Click here to read more about malaria and the flu



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img October 21, 20157:03 pmimg 0 Comments

"I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all"

“I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all”

Are you ever amazed at the power of science to replicate and adapt the human body for the betterment of humankind? We sometimes are. Bunsen Burner Joanna Zhang is revealing the extent of biological research occurring at Columbia and how it may help you one day.

Many Bwoggers have experienced the Netflix marathon craze during which you barricade yourself behind locked doors and burn through all 10 seasons of Friends because you. just. don’t. care. anymore. Of course, at some time during this mania, while rubbing your sore, bloodshot eyes, you might wonder if all this TV might blind you just as your mom warned. Well fear no more, Columbia ophthalmologists have found a way to restore your lost vision. Researchers at CUMC have found that human skin cells can improve the vision of blind mice. After injecting stem cell derived retinal cells into the eyes of blind mice, the stem cells were able to successfully assimilate into the mice’s retina and improve vision. Clinical trials for patients with degenerative retina are already in the works. This is the future, guys.

What else will the future hold?



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img October 16, 201511:26 amimg 0 Comments

*singing* Let's get down to business! To defeat the...brains?

*singing* Let’s get down to business! To defeat the…brains?

Freaky Friday? We think so. Bunsen Burner Joanna Zhang investigates the latest developments in organ and spooky body transplants here on Columbia’s own campus.

It’s the ultimate crunch time for midterms. While Bwoggers are either poring over textbooks and old notes or watching Taylor Swift videos as a VIP member of the procrastiNation, at some point in this pre-midterm craziness we’ve all considered taking someone else’s brain as our own. With the current strides in the scientific world, considering transplants as a last resort may not be so far-fetched after all.

While not as exciting as a brain transplant, CUMC researchers have discovered the immune system mechanism that allows our body to accept kidney transplants without using immunosuppressive drugs. It turns out that only a specific set of donor-reactive T cells are responsible for our tolerance to foreign tissue. They increase in numbers when a patient rejects the tissue and gradually disappear for those who were able to accept transplants. This discovery may lead to new ways in predicting rejection or tolerance to transplanted tissues for patients.

As for the liver, transplant surgeons at the College of Physicians and Surgeons have successfully performed a laparoscopic hepatectomy for the first time in the country. (Let’s take a moment to say laparoscopic hepatectomy ten times as fast as you can). Translation: They managed to cut out a portion of the liver out of a living adult donor for other transplant patients. Of course, it begs the question of what happened to the donors who couldn’t successfully remove a chunk of their liver… With a shortage in organs from deceased donors, living organ donors are becoming increasingly important. However, current procedures can leave donors with pain and higher risk of morbidity. This success indicates huge implications for mitigating the liver shortage, although surgeons warn that the described procedure should only be conducted on select patients by highly experienced staff.

But instead of waiting for someone to donate their brain, why not grow one yourself? Researchers at the Department of Biomedical Engineering (go BME, whoop whoop!) have been growing tissues to repair damaged hearts by placing stem cells into bioreactors that mimic human conditions. Coupled with advances in radiology, in which extremely complex maps of the human heart were successfully generated using ultrasound, you can practically make your own organ.

In retrospect, unless you’re a millionaire and have mad connections, transplanting or growing a new brain seems highly unlikely for now. And with that, better hit the books!

Spooky Surgery via Shutterstock



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img October 06, 20152:05 pmimg 0 Comments

And now, Derek, you must kill the prime minister of Malaysia!

And now, Derek, you must kill the prime minister of Malaysia!

Research question: How many science students that wait all week for BunsenBwog will actually understand the Red Hot Chili Peppers reference we dropped in the title? Regardless, Bunsen Burner Belle Briana Bursten is back from the CUMC newsroom and is tapping into her own gray matter to share her wealth of scientific knowledge with us all. 

Bwoggers know that time spent in the library often turns into minutes spent searching Spotify or hours spent laughing while scrolling through your favorite source for Columbia student news. Although some of us may feel that we have no real control over our attention, researchers at CUMC would argue otherwise. According to a recent finding, it’s been proven that the human attention network in the brain has evolved greatly— partially in response to the complex social situations that humans face daily. Researchers made both primates and humans perform a task of recollection and reaction while simultaneously mapping brain activity through fMRI. Surprisingly enough, humans performed much better on the test than the primates did. Moral of the story: try your best to focus… if not for yourself, do it for Darwin!

Gluten-free diets, Vegan fare, juice cleanses, and… brain-mapping? Though the first three trends are cited by many to lead to healthier lifestyles, the newsroom tells us that brain-mapping may be the most promising. The latter has allowed CUMC neuroscientists to determine the regions of the brain that respond (or don’t respond) to weight loss. Neuroscientist Michael Morabito has found through brain-mapping that changes in weight alter leptin sensitivity. This alteration in sensitivity remains even after weight loss stops, which may account for the struggle that many face of maintaining their weight loss post-diet.

And the Horwitz award goes to… 

(Find out after the jump!)



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img October 01, 20152:35 pmimg 0 Comments


What we imagine goes on in Columbia’s science buildings

It’s been scientifically proven that when Columbia’s science students aren’t in their labs, they’re maniacally searching Bwog for the latest scoop on what’s going on beyond their microscopes. We decided to give the science kids a shoutout in an attempt to combine academic pursuits with some light Bwog reading. Bwog dispatched Senior Staff Writer and Bunsen Burner Belle Briana Bursten to the CUMC newsroom to get us up to date on all of the scientific searches that surfaced this summer (also, s/o alliteration). 

The best way to describe all that happened this summer is to move in chronological order, so let’s begin with the onset of the season and rewind to June. Oh, June… a month named after Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. Regardless of your marital status, New York Presbyterian’s Audobon Practice was the place to be if you were looking for some man candy during Men’s Health Month. The clinic caters to giving men general health care and treatment as well as sexual and reproductive health care. Cosmo always tells us that men are visual, so this stat is no surprise— according to Dr. David Bell, “young men are more likely to seek care at a clinic that’s clearly dedicated to them and includes ‘men’ in the name.” The clinic has already reached out to numerous men in the Washington Heights/Bronx neighborhoods.

Satisfy your science stipulations after the jump



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img April 07, 20159:20 amimg 1 Comments


“I’m Fergalicious (so delicious)/ My body stay vicious!!”

It’s been established that approximately 1% of Bwog readers are actually science majors, but that doesn’t deter us from adding to our famed series, entitled BunsenBwog—a brief review of some of the science-related findings and contributions done by members of our campus community. We dispatched our farthest-thing-from-science-major  Tuesday daily editor Briana Bursten to the CUMC newsroom to report back on the latest findings in the field.

Running, swimming, hiking, walking— everyone knows that these activities are good for you, but actually putting in time on the treadmill in Dodge is easier said than done. However, a study done collaboratively by CUMC and the New York Psychiatric Institute revealed the true power of aerobic exercise, as it has been shown to improve the cognitive functioning in people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. How does it work? It’s possible that the brain-derived neurotrophic factor that increases during exercise (also known as BDNF) might be responsible for cognitive improvements.

At a time in which kids may be more prone to play on an iPad than to play in the good ol’ outdoors, it’s refreshing to hear of a successful exercise program made just for the youngins. CUMC’s CHALK/JustMove program has been selected by ChildObesity180, a national non-profit organization. This means that schools across the country will now be given the opportunity to implement CHALK/JustMove into their academic and physical education curriculum. The program allows for math, English, and science to be woven into aerobic, yoga, and stretching exercises.

“How Fit Are You, Really?” We were wondering the same thing… so it’s swaggy that Dr. Christopher Visco, director of sports medicine at CUMC, tells us what you can learn from this online calculator. Check it out!

It would be hypocritical for CUMC to endorse physical activity without actually partaking in such fitness regimes themselves, so it’s cool that students at CUMC are able to take advantage of the renovated Bard Athletic Center. With new squash courts, cardio machines, and an A/C system, the center has everything students need to get their sweat on.

Sign me up in the gym via Shutterstock



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img March 11, 20152:07 pmimg 1 Comments

Our favorite kind of Gene

Our favorite kind of Gene

In an attempt to satisfy the 1% of Bwog readers who are science majors, we’re bringing back an old favorite: BunsenBwog—a brief review of some of the science-related findings and contributions done by members of our campus community. This week, we sent mad scientist Mason Amelotte to the CUMC newsroom to find out what’s new.

Find yourself buying too many $3 Rolling Rock’s at 1020 every weekend? Fear not, thirsty undergrad. Neuroscientists at Columbia University Medical Center have identified neurons in the brain that both trigger and suppress our sense of thirst. CAMKII neurons were found to turn thirst on when activated, and VGAT neurons were found to turn thirst “off.” Both neurons were found in the subfornical organ in the hypothalamus through “mind control” experiments on mice.

“But what about controlling my appetite?” you ask. “How am I supposed to say no to JJ’s Place when my heart (and stomach) tell me otherwise?” Well lover of food, researchers at CUMC and at the New York Stem Cell Foundation have found a way to generate hypothalamic cells, generally inaccessible neurons that control appetite. Through genetic reprogramming, researchers converted human skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which they then turned into hypothalamic neurons. This now gives researchers means by which to study diseases like obesity.

“But I’m not worried about eating all the time! I’m so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open” Well, researchers at the Center for Infection and Immunity have you covered there, as well. Are you someone that identifies as having myalgic encephalomyelitis, otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? If so, you must be exhausted from being told all the time that your disease is merely psychologic (double entendre intended)! Scientists have actually discovered distinct immune changes in patients with the disease that may actually make diagnosis easier and more accurate!

“None of these apply to me because I’m perfectly healthy! Do you have any news related to something a little bit more mainstream?” Of course we do, pseudo-science intellectual. Remember that #IceBucketChallenge that clogged newsfeeds everywhere last summer? Well it turns out that researchers have found a new specific gene that’s related to sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS. This new gene, called TBK1, plays an important part in affecting patients’ inflammation and autophagy. Tell that one to your friends in Mel’s!

Bob’s Burgers is amazing via Wikia



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img March 03, 20155:25 pmimg 1 Comments


Yeah science, bitch!

Even though it’s March, the “new year, new us” mindset is alive and well. We’re bringing back an element of our past with the revival of BunsenBwog—a brief review of some of the science-related findings and contributions done by members of our campus community. We enlisted the assistance of Bunsen Burner Belle Briana Bursten to enlighten us with her scientific wisdom. 

Everyone knows that a cellphone is the number one item in a millennial’s starter pack, so we think it’s pretty smart that Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and College of Physicians and Surgeons decided to capitalize on the usage of this technological necessity for health purposes. Earlier this year, kids were sent text messages reminding them to get their second flu vaccination. The results? Text messages both increased the receipt of the vaccination and also brought children to receive their vaccinations sooner.

A new magnetic technology developed by doctors at Columbia known as MAGEC (MAGnetic Expansion Control) is now being used to treat early-onset Scoliosis in children. While growing rods are effective in correcting the curvature of the spine for children with Scoliosis, the child is also subjected to multiple surgeries throughout their youth in order to adjust the size of the rod. However, the MAGEC permits surgeons to lengthen the rods with a handheld external magnet, thus avoiding surgery and additional costs for parents.

According to a CUMC study, children and adolescents with autism have an excessive amount of synapses in the brain. This excess affects cognitive development, particularly during the “pruning process.” Knowledge of this neurological finding can perhaps lead to a cure, as there are drugs available that may work to restore synaptic pruning.

Outbreaks of Kawasaki disease in Japan, a rare childhood condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels that later leads to heart disease, may be traced to wind currents coming from northeast China. A study by Mailman School of Public Health reveals that instances of the disease peaked when winds that originated from a region with “vast cereal croplands” swept over specific locations.

Missin Walter White via Shutterstock



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img November 18, 20123:15 pmimg 6 Comments

Read about a study correlating sadness and short-term gratification and by extension consumption of Ben and Jerry’s after the jump!

Zach Kagan PhD (Professional hummus Dipper) gives a rundown of what is happening in the medical world.  

Here’s the problem with modern medical science: it’s just too damn productive. In the past medicine was all about leeches, treacle, and the occasional tobacco smoke blown up the rectum. But scientists and doctors seem to think they can improve on proven, albeit antiquated, techniques. Damn their steadfast pursuit of knowledge. Their curiosity cannot be sated!

And so BunsenBwog is left with stacks upon stacks of new papers on medicine each week. And they just keep coming. There’s only one prescription fit to treat this problem, and it involves a concentrated dose of medical science news.




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img November 14, 20122:45 pmimg 6 Comments

Some galaxy somewhere

After a brief hiatus, BunsenBwog is back, bringing you the best science happenings at Columbia. This week, Bwog’s resident stargazer Zach Kagan discovers that when you stare into a black hole, it stares back into you.

While Columbians have been bogged down with hurricanes, blizzards and midterms, NASA’s plucky  NuSTAR X-ray telescope has been enjoying clear skies in orbit 550 km above Earth’s surface. BunsenBwog has been keeping close tabs on NuSTAR because A) it’s awesome and B) Columbia Engineers are responsible for the device that allows the telescope to focus and amplify X-rays as they are collected. Now NuSTAR has been directed at the center of our galaxy, to observe the massive black hole in the center of the Milky Way. To be more accurate, it’s aimed at Sagittarius A*, a very compact radio-source that is thought to be a black hole.

However, Sgr A* doesn’t act like black holes in neighboring galaxies, which have a habit of gobbling up whatever star or gas cloud passes too close to their event horizon. That cosmic consumption results in temperatures of over 100,000 million degrees Celsius and massive emissions of radiation, but scientists haven’t seen the same behavior from Sgr A*. Then again, there’s been no way to directly measure the X-rays created during such events, until now. NuSTAR is already  collecting X-ray data from Sgr A*  which will allow astrophysicists to learn more about the eating habits of black holes. According to Columbia’s Professor Chuck Hailey, “astronomers have long speculated that the black hole’s snacking should produce copious hard X-rays, but NuSTAR is the first telescope with sufficient sensitivity to actually detect them.” Your sleeping and smoking habits after the jump



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img October 22, 201211:30 amimg 4 Comments

Carbon footprint

Bwog’s resident carbon confidant, Zach Kagan, brings us sordid tales of sustainability, statistics, and snacks.

This midterm season, an incalculable number of sodas and assorted caffeinated beverages will be drunk. Scores of candy bar pick-me-ups will be scoffed. Bag after bag of vending machine purchased chips will be opened and consumed. Exams and snacking go hand and hand this time of the semester, but as you cram for your sustainable development midterm, you may pause and wonder about the sustainability of your own increasingly junk food fueled diet. As it happens, PepsiCo wondered the exact same thing and, thanks to engineering professor Christoph Meinrenken, they know quite a bit more about it.

But PepsiCo didn’t just want to analyze one product. It wanted to determine the carbon footprint of each of its 10,000+ products, not an easy task. Determining the footprint of something requires so-called “life-cycle assessment,” following the product on each stage of its development from bare materials to consumption. Each step of production has its own set of emission factors that needs to be accounted for. Each requires a different team of experts to analyze and compute the footprint. That data needs to then be used to create a meaningful description of the carbon footprint of an individual product. To repeat that process for each of PepsiCo’s products would take an exorbitant amount of time, money, and patience. Prof. Meinrenken sensed that this problem could be solved much more efficiently, but to do so he would have to think outside the box.




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img October 13, 20127:58 pmimg 4 Comments

This week on BunsenBwog, our double feature puts the Homeric dichotomy of city of peace and city of war to shame. Zach Kagan brings you the stories of how the Nobel prize relates to sweet-toothed Swedes and the legitimacy of North Korean nuclear tests.

Oh the irony

This week Columbia celebrates the addition of CC and College of Physicians and Surgeons alum Robert Lefkowitz to its list of 95+ “Columbia affiliates” who have been awarded a Nobel prize. Lefkowitz won this year’s Chemistry Nobel for his work with Brian K. Kobilka on G-protein coupled receptors (or GPCRs). His original interest was studying the mechanisms that control heart contractions. Knowing that certain hormones such as adrenaline can increase heart rate, Lefkowitz and Kobilka set out to characterize the so-called beta-adrenergic receptors responsible for reacting to such hormones. The researchers were able to clone these receptors and in doing so, they created new avenues to study GPCRs in general. Their result proved influential in pharmaceuticals as well, where it led to the development of groundbreaking cardiovascular medications.

Columbia continues to hold the world record for number of Nobel laureates, that is counting all current and former alumni, faculty, and mathematical geniuses who choose to work as university janitors. What gives Columbia an edge over runner-ups such as University of Chicago or Cambridge? According to Columbia Prof. Franz H. Messerli, the answer might lie in the amount of chocolate consumption. Messerli ranked countries by number of Nobel laureates per capita, and then cross referenced that list with the average amount of chocolate consumption per person in that country.

The result turned out to be a “close, significant linear correlation between chocolate consumption per capita and the number of Nobel laureates per 10 million persons.” Messerli’s regression line suggested that it requires about 0.4 kg of chocolate per capita per year in order to produce an extra Nobel laureate. There was only one major outlier: Sweden. The Scandinavian nation that awards the Nobel prizes also seems to win several of them, without a suitably high level of chocolate consumption to match. Messerli provided the following explanation: “the Swedes are particularly sensitive to chocolate, and even minuscule amounts greatly enhance their cognition.” Read about dangerous explosions, or the lack thereof, after the jump



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img October 07, 20122:27 pmimg 8 Comments

Bill Nye is off this week and filling in is the lesser known Science Guy, Bwog’s very own Zach Kagan who takes a look at some of Columbia’s great intellectuals and their research below:  

Professor Terry A. Plank and Professor Maria Chudnovsky

Columbia Professors are no slouches in the brain department. Still, despite their surplus IQ points, few would likely describe themselves as geniuses. Maybe the Core’s infatuation with Socrates has rubbed off on them, or maybe its just plain bad taste. Who knows?  Regardless, for two professors, it’s about to get a lot harder to prevent ego-tripping. That’s because Prof. Terry A. Plank and Prof. Maria Chudnovsky have both been awarded MacArthur “Genius” Grants!

Well, they’re only informally called the “genius grants”. Each of this years’s 23 MacArthur Fellows were anonymously chosen by their peers and given $500,000 to do as they please with, so long as it furthers the scope and goals of their research. Prof. Plank was selected for her work at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory measuring the CO2 concentration of Pacific Ocean volcanoes, while Prof. Chudnovsky was selected for her research “on the structure of abstract graphs with a focus on graph theory and combinatorial optimization,” which are important mathematical topics often applied by engineers.

more science stuff after the quantum leap



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img September 29, 20125:16 pmimg 8 Comments

oooh, you clever alt text checker. Have a cookie

He’s cured three diseases before you even woke up this morning.

Bwog’s avant-garde epidemiologist, Zach Kagan, ventures out on this fine Sunday armed with sleep inertia and a healthy sense of adventure. He discusses recent development in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) with our very own Professor Lipkin.

Professor W. Ian Lipkin has been featured in several editions of BunsenBwog, and why wouldn’t he be? As the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School, Prof. Lipkin has metaphorical fingers in so many metaphorical pies that he ought to get metaphorical carpal tunnel. BunsenBwog has covered his work on the Borna Disease VirusKawasaki Disease, and the film, Contagion, where he acted as a creative consultant (and provided inspiration for one of the characters). But these are but tiny portions of the research Dr. Lipkin contributes to at the CII. That is why I was so excited when Prof. Lipkin agreed to speak with me about the CII’s latest findings on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

The first thing you learn about W. Ian Lipkin is that he’s extremely and perpetually busy, making it difficult to find a time to actually sit down and talk. After a week of negotiations with his personal assistant, Prof. Lipkin decided to E-mail me himself. At 6 A.M. on a Sunday. “Best for me would be 9am.”

Had an obnoxious ray of sunlight not accidentally woken me up at 8:30 A.M., I probably would have slept through my only shot at an interview. Well, it was what I wanted, wasn’t it? So I set forth, sleep deprived and slightly hungover, to meet Lipkin in his 105th street townhouse home. When I found his house, Prof. Lipkin was waiting in the kitchen, eating a sandwich and fiddling with an espresso maker. Thankfully, some of that coffee found its way into the miniature mug being handed to me. And, eventually, we started talking about the CII.

Click here if you are tired



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img September 22, 20126:41 pmimg 5 Comments

What’s more destructive than an alphavirus? A T-Rex loose in NY.

Bwog’s personal plasmid profiler, Zach Kagan, recounts us with the exciting tales of mosquitos, viruses, telescopes and Golden Geese in this week’s Bunsen Bwog. 

We already know what science would do with a 65-million year mosquito sample: make a dinosaur theme park and hire Jeff Golblum to get chased around by velociraptors. But what does science do with a thirty year old mosquito sample? Make a theme park based on hair-rock, Rubik’s cubes, and massive shoulder pads? Unfortunately for the nostalgic among us, science is too socially minded to burden the world with a resurgence of parachute pants and John Hughes movies. Instead they’ve made a key step towards eliminating mosquito-borne viruses, which is marginally cooler than the 80’s, I guess…

The sample in questions was originally found in the Negev Desert of Israel by Hebrew University’s Joseph Peleg. Afterwards, it was shipped around the world, just one in a collection of over 5,000 other mosquito samples, until it was tested by a University of Texas professor named Robert Tesh and his graduate student Farooq Nasar. Nasar discovered that whatever virus the mosquito was carrying, it wouldn’t infect vertebrate cells. From there the virus sample was sent to a lab at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health where a team of grad students got to “deep sequencing” the virus’ DNA. In other words, resequencing nucleotides over and over again to eliminate errors.

The Columbia team found that there were actually two viruses present, one that attacked insect cells and another, which they termed the Eilat Virus, that merely infected them. The second one is what the team was interested in, but they never would have detected it if it weren’t for its more careless roommate going around killing cells and, presumably, being a general slob. Eilat cannot infect or reproduce in animal cells, which is curious enough, but it turns out from the deep sequencing results that Eilat is a member of the alphavirus family. Alphaviruses are a bunch of mosquito-borne miscreants that cause all sorts of diseases in domesticated animals and humans such as “chikungunya, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, western equine encephalitis and eastern equine encephalitis.”

That makes Eilat the Casper the Friendly Ghost of viruses. While all of Eilat’s big brothers go out and infect animals, Eilat just stays in mosquito cells and tries not to be too much of a bother. But Eilat is going to show them. Researchers are using the virus to create vaccines for other alphaviruses. All they have to do is to create a modified version of Eilat with an encasing similar to a dangerous alphavirus, but with Eilat’s chill attitude intact. Thanks Eilat, you a bro. *fist bump*
Read more of BunsenBwog here

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