Oct. 9th, 2013 04:13 pm
tanarill: (Science!)
[personal profile] tanarill
Today was shit. Mostly it was that I could not get to sleep last night, so I was running around on probably not more than six hours of sleep. I have learned that if I take the two sleeping pills as recommended, they will work as advertised. I was hesitant because I didn't want to be groggy in the morning, but I'm groggy anyway from not sleeping. In the future, I will RTFM.

Seminar: This is yesterday's seminar, from a German researcher named Otto. He works with a protein called "Mx," which is a protein that most lab mice don't have. The ones who do have it are much more immune to influenza, by which I mean when you deliberately inject the flu into mice, the ones without Mx die in a week and the ones with Mx just shrug it off.

Humans have two Mx-like proteins, called MxA and MxB. Otto works on MxA, and did a lot of experiments in petri dishes and the by making transgenic mice (mice which have human MxA instead of their normal Mx) and testing their immunities. What he has found is that MxA is really very active against viruses that attack other species. Or, in other words, only viruses that have evolved to be "invisible" to MxA can attack humans. He proved this by showing that both the 1918 pandemic strain of flu and the 2009 pandemic H1N1 strain of flu had the same mutations, those apparently being the mutations a flu virus has to make to become MxA-invisible. Then they were able to cross the species gap from pigs/birds to humans, and cause a pandemic.

This might seem like a failure, but actually it is very good. A virus generation is a few hours long. In the ninety-one years between 1918 and 2009, viruses had time for 265,720 generations, and they only successfully made the species jump . . . twice. So it seems that Mx, and proteins like it, form a very high barrier for viruses to become human-infectious. It protects us from getting sick constantly because of bets like cats and dogs and cockatrices. Once viruses are human-infectious, Mx is kind of useless.

Also, teaching friend Max to be learn chemistry. I learned this in my senior year of high school, during AP chem, so it has been six years. Still, I seem to have retained it fairly well. I've got him setting the problems up correctly, at least, so hopefully he'll be able to do it well on the test. It is good to be able to help.

Date: 2013-10-12 08:02 am (UTC)
everbright: Eclipse of Saturn (Default)
From: [personal profile] everbright
Cool, it's nice to know some of the specifics of why those H1N1 flu strains hit so hard. I've read multiple books about the 1918 pandemic, it's always fascinating.

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