Category: A New Look at Biology

Metas, Or, Biology is Non-Transitive

Ed Thorpe is the mathematician who wrote “Beat the Dealer.” In that book, he detailed his invention of card counting. He  proved for the first time that it was possible to beat the Las Vegas casinos in blackjack, something that was believed to be impossible. He also invented the Black-Scholes equation several years before Black and Scholes (and in fact Black and Scholes directed credited Thorpe’s writing for inspiring them), which resulted in a Nobel Prize. Except he didn’t share in the Prize because he used the equation to make millions of dollars on Wall Street rather than publishing it. But that’s another story.

Thorpe writes about the time he was asked to dinner with Warren Buffett. Ralph Gerard, the dean of UC Irvine, where Ed was a professor of mathematics, was thinking about moving his money from Buffett to Ed. Warren was secretly assessing Ed’s bona fides.

Ed passed muster when he correctly answered Warren’s question about the oddly numbered dice. This is a curious phenomenon. Let’s say you have three dice. The first die A is numbered 3,3,3,3,3,3. The second die is numbered 6,5,2,2,2,2. The third die C is numbered 4,4,4,4,1,1.

If you roll the dice, then most of the time, die A will beat B, B will beat C, and… C will beat A. Continue reading “Metas, Or, Biology is Non-Transitive”

Being Sleepy and Tired

There is a fantastic post by luysii on his Chemiotics II blog. In it, he discusses his theory that senescent cell may be producing mediators that cause chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). I think it’s a fascinating idea.

CFS is a terrible disease, made worse by the fact that some physicians don’t believe that it exists. Trust me, it does.

An interesting things about the disease is that it tend to occur in high income countries, and almost never in developing countries, and that in my experience, it tends to occur in women from mid to higher socioeconomic strata. This is in contrast to fibromyalgia, which Continue reading “Being Sleepy and Tired”

Will We Cure Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease One Day?

FDA, in 2008, did something that many people thought was preposterous. They began requiring companies to prove that diabetes drugs they developed did not kill people. Actually, to be more specific, they required the companies to prove that the risk of dying on the drug was not more than 1.8X higher than not being on the drug.

This caused an uproar. To prove such a ridiculous thing, some companies howled, would Continue reading “Will We Cure Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease One Day?”

Rosacea and Tiny Mites

Mites scare me.

When I was an undergrad, working on fruit flies (I would sit in a coldroom, which was essentially a big refrigerator, injecting fruit fly eggs with a tiny glass needle I blew myself, making some of the very early transgenic fruit flies), mite infestations would occasionally sweep through the lab, killing hundreds of thousands of fruit flies. Some of the flies represented years of work by students and postdocs.

Which brings us to rosacea. Continue reading “Rosacea and Tiny Mites”

It’s a Shame that Scientists Develop Drugs, Instead of Engineers

Museum of Natural History. That’s a funny name, isn’t it? The whole building is full of scientific and biological items like skeletons and fossils. Where’s the history part?  Shouldn’t it be called Museum of Science? Most people would put science and history on the opposite end of the spectrum.

When you hear a name like that, it almost feels like someone’s trying to obfuscate, trying to Continue reading “It’s a Shame that Scientists Develop Drugs, Instead of Engineers”

Why Do We Age? Because of Parasites. Or, the Red King Theory

So there’s this paper I’ve been trying to get published for a little while. It lays out my hypothesis for why we age. You can see the preprint here on the bioRxiv server. The journal editors really don’t seem to like it, probably because it is completely against the grain of current thinking, although a handful of people who have seen it on bioRxiv seem to like it quite a bit.

In the past, I had never been that interested in aging, because I get depressed when I think about degenerative diseases. I think it comes from when I was training as a doctor and I would see patient after patient with hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. The older doctors taught me that our job was not to cure these patients–that was impossible–but to slow down the inevitable progression of these diseases. I didn’t like that. I like to fix people, I like to fix problems, I like to fix companies.

But my interest was piqued when I read a review article in Science couple of years ago that declared that it was just a matter of time before we could reverse aging. Continue reading “Why Do We Age? Because of Parasites. Or, the Red King Theory”

Hand of God or A Viral Shockwave?

Let’s talk about what happened when Europeans first tried to settle North America. They failed and never came back. The entire Eastern seaboard was covered Native American farms and there was hardly a fertile spot left. And the Native Americans overwhelmed the settlers and drove them out.

I am, of course, talking about the Vikings who tried to settle Newfoundland and failed.

Continue reading “Hand of God or A Viral Shockwave?”

If You Can’t Culture It, It Doesn’t Exist

We were taught in medical school that the bladder was sterile. That’s because urine is sterile. So naturally, so is the bladder, right?

Wrong. It turns out that there are numerous organisms in the bladder, and that probiotics that might change the microbiome in the bladder may enhance effectiveness of chemotherapy for bladder cancer.

The reason we thought bladder was sterile is Continue reading “If You Can’t Culture It, It Doesn’t Exist”

Questions from OneHealth

There are some observations from animal health that poses questions for human medicine and in some cases possess challenges to the current paradigm.

For example, let’s take gingivitis. We think of gingivitis as a degenerative disease,  caused by bacteria. But dogs get gingivitis,  with all the attendant sequelae, including tooth loss. But the speed at which the disease progresses is much Continue reading “Questions from OneHealth”

Terra Incognita of Science

“Drug Development: When Scientists Try to Build Things”

In 1968, Gunther Stent, a prominent biologist and part of the “band” that included Watson and Crick, wrote a famous paper, subsequently followed by a book. In it, he bemoaned the fact that everything there was to know about molecular biology had already been discovered. That there was to be no more Continue reading “Terra Incognita of Science”