Training T Cell Assassins

Author: John Charpentier

Editors: Zena Lapp, Theresa Mau, and David Mertz

 

t_cell_assassin
Figure 1. An encounter between a CAR-T cell and a cancer cell

 

The assassins have a description of their targets, who are hiding in plain sight among the non-combatants. The targets are guerillas who’ve infiltrated the neighborhood, overwhelming the local authorities and fomenting chaos. After only minutes on patrol, the assassins go on the attack, quickly identifying and eliminating the enemy without harming a single bystander.

This scenario may sound like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it’s also a good metaphor to describe the activity of engineered immune cells against cancer cells. The assassins are called CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor-T) cells, and they receive their elite training at the hands of physicians and scientists, who teach them to recognize particular molecules on the surface of tumors.

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The Science of What Keeps Us Apart

Author: Kaitlin Weskamp

Editors: Shweta Ramdas, Alex Taylor, and Kevin Boehnke

“… in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” 
             ― Maya Angelou

Over time, there has been a general trend towards acceptance and inclusivity in the civil rights laws of the United States. From the abolition of slavery in 1865, to granting women the right to vote in 1920, to the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, we are making torturously-slow-but-steady progress towards the promise that “all men [and women] are created equal.”

Today, the majority of people in the U.S. agree with Maya Angelou that diversity lends strength to our community. However, racism, sexism, and homophobia remain enormous societal issues. Is there a neurological basis for these ideas? If so, how can we combat it?

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How to Fold (and Misfold) a Protein (Part 1)

Author: Sarah Kearns

Editors: David Mertz, Zulierys Santana-Rodriguez, and Scott Barolo

Proteins do most of the work in your body: Depending on their shape, they can digest your food, fire your neurons, give color to your eyes and allow you to see colors. Proteins follow instructions encoded in your DNA to fold into their shape, but how do they “know” what shape to fold into to perform their biological functions? What happens when they fold incorrectly?

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String Theory: Worth the Wait or Just Stringing Us Along? (Part 2)

Author: Molly Kozminsky

Editors: Theresa Mau, Jimmy Brancho, and Alisha John

In my previous post, I discussed what string theory is, how it has not been experimentally verified, and how the existence of Higgs boson was proved fifty years after it was first proposed. In this post, I will continue to discuss the lengthy process of validating the theory of gravitational waves and where we stand with string theory research.

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