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My forgotten dreamcatcher

You know about the things that we get and forget right? We do that all the time. I bought a dreamcatcher once in a Mexican arts and craft store where I went to shorten my wrist-watch’s metal band. I did not know what a ‘dreamcatcher’ was at that time. According to Wikipedia,

According to Terri J. Andrews, “Only good dreams would be allowed to filter through . . . Bad dreams would stay in the net, disappearing with the light of day.”[4] Good dreams would pass through and slide down the feathers to the sleeper.

The store operator told me…or I understood it so that a dreamcatcher brings your dreams come true…so, I bought one… it was made out of leather, red leather on the outside, yellow on the inside with one long white feather and another short one on top of it. It looked beautiful. I bought it for its aesthetic appeal rather than its associations with dreams.

In any case, I placed it above the computer of my laptop dock on my desk and it probably fell behind the screen and I forgot about it. At that time, I was a recent graduate with shameful grades and struggling finances and therefore a low self-esteem of all times. In those days I used to dream about having my own project, my own publications and going to graduate school…which is where I am today.

Today is my last day at work. As I was cleaning my desk to head out to Africa tomorrow and then to Chicago for my PhD, I found my dreamcatcher behind the computer screen. May be it was there this whole time catching me good dreams and making my dreams come true. I had an option to chug it or take it with me…guess what I did….you guessed it right. Its in the box with “The most valuable things” scribbled on it.

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You need a new car!

It had been a few months since I had changed the oil in my car and it had surpassed at least a week since the ‘oil’ light had been constantly on. So, I went to get the oil ‘changed’ and it was kinda embarrassing but real funny when the mechanic wrote “you need a new car” on my receipt when he found out that everything in my car needed to be replaced…lol…

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Bacteria Therapy: Cure for HIV?

Bacteriophage

Bacteriophage

Just a thought…

The article above in Popular Science is very interesting to me because I wonder whether reverse phage therapy or bacteria therapy would work in HIV. In phage therapy, viruses that kill bacteria are used to kill infectious drug resistant bacteria. If we could use bacteria instead to invite infectious viruses and then clear the bacteria post infection, we can in turn clear the viruses.

In case of HIV, initially I had thought that we could possibly engineer a bacteria to express receptors such as CCR5 or CXCR4 that would lure HIV to infect them instead of CD4+ T cells. These bacteria would also express receptors that would facilitate the opsonization process (clearing of pathogens by immune cells).

Engineered Bacteria

Engineered Bacteria

However, there major obstacles in this process. First, the interaction of CD4 with other molecules expressed by our cells can prove to be a major obstacle. Next, the bacteria may generate immune response and may be cleared too soon before it can actually circulate in the body. Third, it may cause immune activation which is not necessarily advantageous to a patient. Fourth, how will these bacteria be administered? Fifth, depending the route of administration, they may not clear HIV from hard to reach areas such as gut and brain. Finally and possibly the most importantly, it will not clear latent infections. One more: there will still be CD4+ cells that will be infected…how are we going to deal with them?

Although these questions persist and not being able to answer any one of these questions may render the whole process uneffective, it is important to think about phages in HIV. Despite the fact that there are thousands of papers on HIV and hundreds on phages, to my knowledge, there is not a single scientific literature that has investigated the possible role of the phages in HIV infection/pathogenesis. Therefore, despite various challenges, investigating the the beneficial use of phages in HIV could lead us to a novel way of tackling the HIV epidemic.

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The tale of the racehorses

Published on Nepal Abroad, Chaitra 08, 4 (09) and Chaitra 09, 4 (10) issues.

Once upon a time in a small town there was a family of horses that ran in chariot races. There was a dad horse, a mom horse, a brother horse, and a sister horse. All the horses were really fast. Together they had won many races and people really loved them.

Even though they were popular and had won many races, the brother horse always wanted to win more races and bigger races. He always wanted to get more popular. One day the brother horse decided to run in the Nariiot, a very long race where many horses from all over the world came to run. They were all big and strong horses and the brother horse and his family was too small and inexperienced for such a huge race. Dad horse, mom horse and sister horse did not want to participate in the Nariiot but brother horse insisted. When the rest of his family resented the idea of participating in the Nariiot, the brother horse yelled, shouted, and cried until the others agreed.

Once they listed their names in the Nariiot, they practiced for many days. Each day the dad horse and mom horse ran very hard and so did the sister horse. The brother horse ran the hardest because he wanted to be the best horse in the Nariiot. He was very fast but his dad, mom, and his sister were not as fast as he was. Even though they were trying their best to run as fast as him, they could not and the brother horse complained all the time saying that they were not fast enough for the Nariiot. He quarreled with them every day such that no one in the family liked to talk to him anymore. But to appease him they kept running harder and harder every day.

Finally, the big day came. On that day of the Nariiot, there were horses of all color: black, white, brown and some even purple ones. They were many tall and muscular stallions and geldings. The brother horse although being the tallest in the family looked like a colt in front of the other horses. Everyone lined up at the starting line in the huge racetrack at the Nariiot. This was the first time the brother horse and his family was running along side the big and stronger horses for very long time.

The race began. The horses started running. The brother horse ran his hardest and so did his family members. Although they did very well in the race, they were not able to wallop a few chariots. One time they came close to being the first chariot in the race but the dad horse and the mom horse were too old and weak to keep up with other stronger bigger horses instead of giving their best effort. Sister horse was too young and delicate compared to other competitors but she too ran as fast as she could. When they started to lose the race, brother horse was not happy so he kept yelling at them to run faster and faster. The race ended and the family did not win.

Although they did not win the Nariiot, all the participants complimented them on their effort. The brother horse went and high-fived all the horses who complimented them. He even danced for the crowd. The crowd loved him and cheered for him. There were even photographers who took his pictures for big magazines. The brother horse loved it so much that he forgot about his family. Not even once did he thank his family members for the grand performance. Never did he show any affection for their woes and blisters. While he was enjoying his fame, the father horse and the mother horse were gasping for their lives because they had ran so hard. Sister horse was not able to even walk comfortably anymore because she had blisters all over her feet. And they were very sad because the brother horse had totally forgotten about them. They quietly went to their wagon and with a great deal of agony started to pull it towards their home.

It took very long for the brother horse to realize that this family had left him. When he found that out he also felt the saddest in his life. All of a sudden, all the cheers and high fives did not mean much to him. He realized that his family was what meant the most to him and without his family all his happiness was also gone. He then immediately took off to his meet with his family. He found them barely dragging themselves along with the carriage so that they can return home before dusk. The brother horse felt very bad for them and he could not forgive himself for his family’s situation.

He slowly approached his family members and apologized for being so stubborn, indifferent and selfish. He then kindly asked dad horse, mom horse, and sister horse to step inside the carriage and he pulled them the carriage all the way to home. When he got home, it was already dark and he was very tired. He had blisters in his feet from dragging the wagon with his family in it for many hours and he had bruises in his chest and on his shoulders. He was very sore and exhausted. But he was happy that he got them home safely. There were no cheers or high fives for this accomplishment but this was the most cherished accomplishment of his life. That day, they all ate dinner together after a very long time. Everyone thanked brother horse for getting them home safe and they all said goodnight to each other before going to bed.

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The Ants, The Bees, and The Monkeys

Once upon a time there was a forest at the bottom of a hill. There was a huge tree on the top of the hill. No one from the forest wanted to climb the hill to get to the tree. One year there was a drought. There was not much food in winter. Next spring too, very few flowers blossomed and even fewer fruits yielded in the summer following spring. Now, it was certain that there would be not a lot of food for the winter.

That spring, the ants began to realize that the food would be scarce in winter and they began planning to gather food such that they would not starve in the winter. Although the ants vigorously started to search for food, they could not gather much in the forest. One day a few ants were talking about how hard it was to find anything edible in the forest and their worries about the possible shortage of food in winter. They mentioned that there should be a better plan to gather more food so that they would not have to succumb to cannibalism in winter. The bees who, also realizing the shortage of food, were briskly searching for flowers in the spring, heard the ants’ conversation. They flew down to the ants and said their story was the same too. The bees then proposed to the ants that if they looked for food together, may be they could find something in the forest. The ants agreed and the pact was made that the bees would look for food in the branches of high trees and the ants would rummage the ground. Everyday while the ants and the bees were looking for food, they passed the monkeys. The monkeys never seem to have thought about storing food for winter. One time a bee flew to the monkey and asked whether the monkeys would join the bees and the ants to search for food which would be scarce in the winter. The monkey laughed at the bee and said, “We are doing our own business here and there is no one to go look for food. We do not have so many people like you guys to go looking for food. Besides why are you looking for food there is plenty around here.” The bee was astonished. “Instead of fighting with each other why don’t a few of you guys join us,” the bee asked. The monkey got so mad he tried to snap the bee in his palm. The bee flew back to save her life.

Every night the bees and the ants searched for food all day and in the evening they got together to talk about their progress of the day. Despite trying their best to find food in the forest, they had only amassed food enough to last a few weeks even if they ate conservatively. In that case they were going to starve that winter. A new source of food was needed. After brainstorming for many days it was finally decided that they will search for alternate sources of food. The next day a bee came in late to the evening meeting. She looked very tired but very excited. When her colleague ants and the bees asked her what was wrong with her, she mentioned to them that she had gone to the big tree atop the mountain and she had seen the mountain full of flowers and fruits. She even brought some sweet nectar from one of the flowers for her ant and bee colleagues. Everyone thanked her for her courage and they made a plan to climb the gigantic hill and get to the tree so that they could start collecting food for the winter. The next morning at dawn, the bees carried the ants on their backs to the mountain top where the tree was. They got there early in the evening and after enjoying the mesmerizing sunset, they retreated to a good night’s rest.

The next morning the ants began digging holes in the ground for themselves and for the bees to make their hives. The wind was too strong to make hives on the tree branches. The bees then flew around the tree to locate flowers with sweet nectar. The whole summer they made tunnels and hives and collected food. While the ants and the bees were busy collecting food, the monkeys were busy fighting among themselves. They had heard that the ants and the bees had left for the huge tree atop the mountain but they could care less. They completely ignored the fact that the necessity to collect the food for winter.

After the summer the winter brought severe cold. The bees and the ants had warm beds and were enjoying the food they had collected earlier that year but the monkeys neither had food nor beds to sleep in. They had heard of the bees and the ants going to the big tree atop the mountain and they thought we should go there; there must be food. So the monkeys started climbing the mountain. They were very rowdy and made loud noises, broke branches of the trees that they climbed, and uttered stupid things that made no sense. The ants and the bees saw the monkeys coming. Being very kind animals, they thought the monkeys would be hungry after climbing such a huge hill and they decided to collect the fruits fallen from the tree so that the monkeys could eat them.

When the monkeys reached the hilltop, they were very tired and cold. They were offered with the fruits that the bees and the ants had collected for them. But the monkeys saw the warm beds of the bees and the ants and all the honey and the fruits that they had stored for themselves and the monkeys wanted them all. They climbed the tree and started shaking it hard in the process they broke its branches and shook off a lot of its flowers and fruits. The monkeys then began demanding the warm beds of the ants and the bees.

“We are the rulers of this tree because we are the rulers of the forest,” they said. The bees and the ants retaliated saying that they informed the monkeys that there will be no food in the winter but the monkeys did not want to join them. “Therefore, the monkeys do not have the right to come and demand things that they did not work for,” said the bees and the ants. “We came to the forests first. So we should be the first to enjoy the good things from this tree,” argued the monkeys. There was a lot of argument back and forth because the bees and the ants did not want to give up their food since they had worked hard for it. The monkeys were not going to be satisfied until they got warm beds and delicious honey full of nectar. The argument slowly turned into a quarrel which then turned into a full fledged battle. The monkeys picked the fruits the bees and the ants had offered them and started throwing them at the tunnels of the bees and the ants. They also picked up the branches and started destroying the beehives and they pocked big holes in the walls of the tunnels. They started terrorizing the hilltop.

The ants and the bees got really angry at the monkeys now. They decided to get rid of the monkeys. The bees swarmed out of their hives and started stinging the monkeys. The ants too, came out of the tunnels and started biting them. The monkeys could not bear the pain and they started running away from the stinging of the bees and the biting of the ants. They scattered in all directions. Some of the monkeys were stung in the eyes so they were blinded and they died falling off the mountain top. Some of them were bitten in their legs so severely that they could not step with their feet and they too fell of the cliff. A few remaining monkeys ran away into the forest and vowed never to mess with the bees and the ants again. Even when they were fleeing they were quarreling which direction to go to. The ants and the bees were sad that their homes were destroyed by the monkeys. But they picked up their spirits knowing that the monkeys were never going to come back again. They managed to rebuild their homes such that it was warm again protecting them from the cold outside. They shared their food and lived happily ever after.

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Polymeme: the real alternate news site?

Polymeme.com

According to Polymeme website, their “site uses a unique buzz-tracking approach to identify what’s currently hot in 20 areas, ranging from economics to evolution, and present it to the reader along with all sources that are currently talking about it. Thus, you can track how ideas – or memes – propagate through this new emerging networked public sphere. We would consider our mission a success if we expose you to the maximum number of new ideas on every 100 news items you read!”

Okay it was not that non-mainstream because the top two people here were Obama and McCain, top two topics were energy and oil, and top two places were US and China. However, there was plenty of new and progressive stuff…the opinions that makes one think…just look at their science page!

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How long will the massive number of endangered gorillas last now?

Just last month I attended a talk titled Life: A Journey Through Time by Frans Lantig at Stanford where Lantig and his wife documented the world from the beginning to present day…and the poem it was so just and beautiful. In that talk I saw many pictures, one picture though stuck in my mind: it was of a gorilla. I kept wondering how ruthlessly we humans have killed these innocent animals, marvels of evolution, vestiges of our common ancestors, and in evolutionary terms our own kind, our cousins. It was depressing.

Baby gorilla

Then I found this news Found: massive number of endangered gorillas. I even heard about it on NPR. They said the precise location has been undisclosed; possibly to prevent the poachers from getting there. Well the poachers are going to find out sooner or later…and again there will be decry, more news on how it is horrible to kill these endangered animals and yet another race to “save” these animals.

I was glad that more gorillas have been found…but my happiness lasted for a few seconds and I started wondering why they even disclosed this news…why did they not let our cousins remain hidden from the world and quietly protected them from poachers….I guess everyone needs their 15 mins of fame…whether with the discovery of a kind or with its rawhide…may the gorillas remain protected!

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