Current Weather
The Spy FM

TEDMED Thursday: Sex, ‘Poo Tea’ And ALS

Filed by KOSU News in Health.
April 12, 2012

It takes more than a convoy of fire engines and an evacuation of the Kennedy Center first thing to stop TEDMED.

I heard conflicting reports about what happened this morning, but the show went on — a few minutes late — once D.C.’s bravest were satisfied we’d all be safe.

After a snappy tune from the @songadaymann (Jonathan Mann), Cal Tech’s Frances Arnold made sure everyone was really awake by telling us what a blast her lab work is: “I have fun forcing molecules to have sex.”

In nature, she said, “proteins aren’t designed, they’re evolved.” That’s where sex comes in to mix up genetic material. “Sex is an innovation-generation machine,” she said.

And in the lab she’s speeding that process up by shuffling genes artificially — and doing it smartly she hopes — by figuring out which elements have a fighting chance of producing proteins that actually work and maybe even do something useful.

Later on, I heard more than one person suggest that it would have been helpful to have a session on the risks and ethical implications of work like this.

In the afternoon, Emory’s Jonathan Glass and Nick Boulis dove headfirst into the realm of risk, arguing that the current system of regulation is holding back progress in the search for treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It’s time, they say, for regulators such as the Food and Drug Administration to let patients take bigger risks when the alternative is looming death.

The researchers are interested in speeding up access to stem-cell treatments, even though both acknowledged there are big unanswered questions about their safety and effectiveness. But as Glass summed up, “This is an emergency. The house is on fire.”

Finally, back to the morning session for one of the more provocative talks. University of California, Davis’ Jonathan Eisen urged everyone to get to know their personal microbes: We’re all colonized from head to toe. The mass of microbes each of us carries around, in fact, is greater than the mass of our brains, he said.

Some microbes help us, and others can hurt us. Miscommunication between our bodies and the microbes that live with us may make us sick. Fixing that snafu could make us well.

Some old-time vets, Eisen said, already use a concoction called “poo tea,” a diluted mixture of fecal matter from a healthy animal, to effectively treat sick animals.

But we’re only beginning to grasp how microbes affect human health. “We need a full field guide to microbes that live in and on us.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

10AM to 12PM The Toaster Brunch

The Toaster Brunch

The Toaster Brunch is our Sunday morning Reggae show, hosted by E-Roy. The Toaster Brunch has an active following of scooter clubs and rastas from around the world. E-Roy is also a high school principal.

Listen Live Now!

12PM to 1PM This American Life

This American Life

Take in a slice of Americana with critically acclaimed host Ira Glass on "This American Life." Each week he picks a theme, then gives his writers and performers the freedom to weave real stories from real people around that theme in a manner they find most engaging.

View the program guide!

1PM to 2PM Seasonal Shows

Seasonal Shows

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center