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The Thrill of Discovery
When Dr. Jeff Friedman followed in his father’s path to become a doctor, he entered a six-year medical program out of high school and received an M.D. at the age of 22. After a yearlong fellowship working in the lab of The Rockefeller University's Mary Jane Kreek, he fell in love with the science life. Today, using advanced techniques in neurobiology and genetics, Dr. Friedman has identified and characterized the activity of leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells that balances food intake and energy expenditure. By studying leptin, as well as other genes that influence weight, Friedman hopes to eventually aid in the development of therapies to combat obesity. Dr. Friedman is a Professor at the Rockefeller University in New York City and Director of the university's Starr Center for Human Genetics. Lately, he has taken his search for fat genes to Kosrae, a small island in the Pacific where obesity is rampant. By analyzing DNA collected from all the adults on the island, Dr. Friedman hopes to learn more about why some people are overweight while others are lean.
Topic: The Thrill of Discovery
Jeff Friedman: I’ve had the experience of results I was excited about any number of times. I can’t recall precisely the number. I must say that other than in one case in particular I’m not sure anyone else on the planet shared my level of excitement, but that’s okay. It’s sort of a personal enterprise. The one moment, however, that was pretty exhilarating was the moment at which we- I realized we had cloned the ob gene which encodes this hormone leptin, a fat hormone that plays an important role in regulating weight
Question: How did you name the gene?
Jeff Friedman: Well, it’s interesting you should ask this because I too have been interested in moments of discovery and have had the good fortune to know a lot of very famous scientists over the years and always made it a point of asking them about their moments of discovery. One such scientist is a fellow named Roger Guillemin who won the Nobel Prize for defining hypothalamic releasing factors. These are pituitary factors that control secretion of pituitary hormones. And I spoke to Roger at some length walking on a beach at some boondoggle in the Caribbean listening to him tell me about the moments when he realized he had something of substance. So Roger and I had a rapport and he listened to a presentation I gave long before the ob gene had been cloned talking about why I thought this was going to be a hormone and how we were going to try to confirm that. I get back to my lab sometime after that. I get a letter from Roger. It was either before the days of e-mail or Roger had not yet adopted e-mail. I can’t remember which. And in the letter, which I think I may have recovered--I think I have recovered it from Roger since--he says to me- he writes that he didn’t think I should be referring to the ob gene as an obesity gene, which was the moniker under which it often went. He said, “The normal gene keeps you thin. Only when defective do you become obese so the gene is not really an obesity gene. I suggest you call it a lepto gene, lepto being derived from the Greek root leptos for thin.” And so when we found the gene it was our prerogative to name the encoded protein, genes encoded for proteins, and so the name had stuck with me I was sort of playing with a number of names but ultimately it seemed to me leptin had many of the features we were looking for and was far preferable to the name that my brother had proposed, which was friedmone.
Dr. Jeff Friedman describes finding the big one.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.