Aug 28, 2023 2:21:33 PM       by Kin Leung

The Unsung Hero: Maurice Hilleman, Father of Vaccines

Having navigated the worst of a pandemic, it is amazing how just barely over a year since the first reports of SARS-CoV-2, a vaccine was developed. What might not be as well known is that the foundation for the COVID-19 vaccine (and a just-as-rapid quell of the spread, though obviously still be vigilant and take proper precautions) was laid out for decades with the study of mRNA-based vaccines. Although I still masked up regularly until early 2023, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to get the vaccine as soon as it was available in 2021, as my family and I sought to protect ourselves and others through a day or two of aches and nausea. The scientists and technicians at the various companies that conceived of and manufactured the vaccines that have been distributed across the planet are relatively anonymous but should be commended. August being National Immunization Awareness Month, let us learn a bit more about vaccination and the pioneers that offer us important protections that we should not take for granted.

Feb 22, 2023 12:00:00 PM       by Kin Leung

The Rare Complications From Glycogen Storage Disease

The last day of February marks a hopeful end to winter and a transition in the sporting world as well, but is also important in society as a day to recognize and raise awareness for rare diseases. Known as Rare Disease Day, the goal is this observance is to remind humanity that just because a disease is not prevalent or has as much research dedicated to it does not make it any less important, as certain individuals obviously suffer from these rare diseases and deserve accessibility to treatment and hopefully a cure. While it makes sense that more funding is funneled to cancer and neurology research since it affects so many more people, performing research in these comparatively uncommon maladies could offer insight into their diseases that get most of the research dollars.

Nov 30, 2022 12:00:00 PM       by Kin Leung

Protecting Yourself from Preventable Diseases

It has been a very trying time for all of us across the planet, with COVID-19 still lurking around as new variants pop up, while having to also deal with the growing spread of monkeypox. As for me, I’ve had a couple of bad colds since the start of the pandemic, but one was before commercial testing was available (maybe COVID? But probably not!), and the other was more recent and was definitely not COVID (lucky me!). In fact, I have to say that because of certain choices I have made to avoid the big bad disease as well as other preventable diseases, this has been the least I’ve experienced illness in quite some time.

Jun 3, 2022 12:00:00 PM       by Kin Leung

Traffic Management: The Indispensable Vesicular Transport System

When I taught high school biology, a favorite part of the curriculum was cellular structures and functions. I set up an activity suggested by other experienced biology teachers that was based on the “Cell City,” a learning analogy where students would create an artwork of a city with the mitochondrion as a power plant and a vacuole as a lake. (Figure 1) I wish I saved their very creative projects, but I distinctly remember one group used the Chicago Transit Authority’s elevated train system map to represent the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), a very clever use of the analogy and a nod to city pride. It was also the first time these students really thought about vesicular transport, although they didn't fully understand its importance.

May 13, 2022 12:00:00 PM       by Kin Leung

Designer Genes: What's Next For CRISPR?

Towards the end of my doctoral research, I first heard the rumblings of an acronym termed “CRISPR” that was starting to gather momentum. By the time I earned my doctorate, the applications that were discussed in both theory and in practice accelerated to the point that, while I didn’t fully understand the mechanism of the factors involved, I was certain that the discovery and re-engineering of this prokaryotic phenomenon would eventually be recognized with a Nobel Prize. Less than a decade after their first publications on the topic, 1, 2 Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the development of a method for genome editing,” which sounds a lot less important than it actually is!


Oct 22, 2018 6:00:00 PM       by Michele Mei

How Next Generation Sequencing Changed Disease Research

Therapies targeting the function of a small intestinal protein, SGLT1, might have the potential to treat diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart failure, and associated death—and we have next generation sequencing to thank.