What Watson and Crick Were On About: How the Genetic Code is Decoded

Black and White photograph of Watson and Crick considering their DNA model, one standing and pointing, the other sitting.
Watson and Crick with their original model (thehistoryblog.com).

The double helix structure of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA) was established in 1953, in a paper published by James Watson and Francis Crick, working at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University. In this post, I’ve provided a beginner’s guide to genetics, with a fairly simple outline of how the genetic code carried on DNA is translated into a human, or indeed any other living organism. Continue reading “What Watson and Crick Were On About: How the Genetic Code is Decoded”

What Has Covid Ever Done for Us? The Rise of RNA Vaccines in Cancer Treatment

Mediaeval drawing of man and helpers offering a drink to another near supine dying man

The Covid pandemic has been devastating for the world, with 6.8 million deaths. In the UK, 206,000 people have died from Covid-related causes. As pandemics go, it’s by no means the worst. The 1918 flu pandemic killed 20-50 million people, and the Black Death, caused by the bubonic plague bacterium, killed around 75-200 million people, or around half the world’s population. What was different about Covid was the development of vaccines, in particular RNA vaccines. And with that development of RNA vaccines came a new possibility: a cure for cancer. In this blog post, I’ll try to explain what RNA vaccines are, how they work, and why they could be the key to creating bespoke treatments for cancer.

Continue reading “What Has Covid Ever Done for Us? The Rise of RNA Vaccines in Cancer Treatment”

The Covid Vaccine: Keep the Champagne on Ice for Just a Little Longer

A Vaccination, a painting by Ann Archer, 1899
‘A Vaccination’ by Ann Archer, 1899

The world’s media have gone into excited overdrive over the last couple of days with the announcement that US drug company Pfizer has developed an effective vaccine against Covid-19.  Should we be celebrating?  Or is our desperation for a vaccine and a ‘return to normal’ clouding our collective judgement?

Continue reading “The Covid Vaccine: Keep the Champagne on Ice for Just a Little Longer”

The Second Wave: It Didn’t Have To Be Like This

Couple meeting during self-isolation
Self-isolation during the COVID 19 pandemic (www.vperemen.com)

As the second wave of Covid-19 infections breaks tumultuously over our heads, it’s disappointing that there’s still so much misinformation out there, and some of it is originating from places where it really didn’t ought to. But that’s just one factor in a complicated mosaic that has led us to this dismal outcome.

Continue reading “The Second Wave: It Didn’t Have To Be Like This”

While The Sun Shines: Can We Avoid an Autumn Covid Outbreak?

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister, head and shoulders in red jacket.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister (New Zealand Government, Office of the Governor-General )

Today, New Zealand declared the country to be free of the COVID-19 virus, and scrapped all COVID-related restrictions, apart from quarantine of overseas visitors.  It’s not the first country to announce that it’s COVID-free, nor is it the largest.  But it is significant in that it’s a country that’s broadly comparable to European and North American nations, and took an approach to tackling the virus that was very different from that of UK.

Continue reading “While The Sun Shines: Can We Avoid an Autumn Covid Outbreak?”

Stay Alert: Bad News for Hastings?

Sunbathers on Pelham Beach, Hastings under a cloudless sky.
Will we see crowds of sunbathers back in Hastings?

The government has changed their advice from ‘stay at home’ to ‘stay alert’.  The original message was clear and straightforward; the new one is meaningless. Even ‘Get the Pandemic Done’ would have been better, although just as ambiguous as the original vote-winning Brexit slogan.              

Continue reading “Stay Alert: Bad News for Hastings?”

COVID-19: The Start of a New World Order?

Garden vegetable plot, with lettuce, sweet corn and peas.
Will growing vegetables make us better people?

There’s been a lot of talk about how things will be different after lockdown, with various commentators putting their own prognosis on how we’ll all be better people in a better world when all this is over.  I did at first doubt it, whether this Coronavirus pandemic would make any difference at all, or whether we’d all have forgotten about it in a year’s time.  That seems unlikely now – there will I believe be lasting effects, but it’s far from clear what they will be.

Continue reading “COVID-19: The Start of a New World Order?”

CV19: It’s Not a War

Time for some gardening …

I am concerned about the macho, emotive language being used during this viral pandemic.  We’re on a wartime footing. There’s an enemy we have to defeat.  We have to suffer and endure to win.  This is not a ‘war’, and the endless use of wartime metaphors, in the press, BBC, and by the Prime Minister himself is misleading and, I believe, potentially dangerous.  It’s the wrong approach.

Continue reading “CV19: It’s Not a War”