Can a virus cause cancer? A brief introduction to tumor virology

Burkitt's Lymphoma
Burkitt’s Lymphoma patient

Can a virus cause cancer in humans?

In a word, yes. In fact, at this point multiple viruses have been identified as playing a role in the progression of many different cancers. The very first of these cancer-causing viruses was discovered by Peyton Rous in 1911, making the field of tumor virology over one century old. While this initial discovery was a virus that causes tumors in chickens, many important human cancers have since been discovered to have a viral component. The first human tumor virus to be discovered was Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in association with Burkitt’s lymphoma in 1965. Since then many more viruses have been found to be tumorigenic in humans and more may still be awaiting to be discovered.

How is it that these many different viruses are involved in so many different types of cancers? What about these viruses makes them tumorigenic?

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West Nile Virus in HEK cells

Immunofluorescent Microscopy

West Nile Virus in HEK cells 24 hours post infection, 10x magnification. Green is a FITC label on a cytoskeleton marker and red is Cy3 labeling of West Nile Virus. Note viral exclusion from the nucleus. Image by KD Shives.

Today is exciting because I get to do two things.

1: Post the first successful images of West Nile virus infectined cells that I took on my own and

2: Give a basic explanation one of the most visually impressive techniques at our disposal: immunofluorescent microscopy.

For those of you not familiar with fluorescent microscopy this is a very basic image taken with only two fluorophores, or dyes, to color the image. In this image the green color is from FITC and the red comes from Cy3.

So how is it that I can make images that look like this? How do you target the dye to only one part of the cell? Why is all of the cell green and only some parts are red? What is the yellow? Read on for the answers… Continue reading

Passion for Communication

microphone
microphone (Photo credit: TOM81115)

Today I’ve been thinking about all of the influences that have made me so passionate about scientific literacy and effective science communication. As a global society we are challenged daily with obstacles that can most effectively be solved using our modern scientific understanding of the world. Yet for a variety of reasons much of the general public is unaware of the startling leaps and bounds generated by the modern global scientific community, aware but misinformed by sloppy reporting, to downright distrustful of science and those involved.  While we could go into these various issues and their origins at length, I would rather take a moment and share some of the resources that have pushed me to share my love of science with the public in the hopes that I can spread my passion for scientific communication to others. Continue reading

Guest Post at Gradhacker

Hello readers! I have started contributing articles to the Gradhacker website in order to share some of the things I learned in my first year of graduate school. This month I’ve written an article for those of you about to start graduate programs and how to choose the best laboratory rotations for your personality and interests.

Head over to Gradhacker and check out my new piece: How to Find the Right Lab Rotation