May 2012

TEDTalks: two hours of tremendous science

A top-10 list of TEDTalks
for molecular biology and biochemistry



TEDTalks are brief presentations delivered by pioneers in their respective fields who have “ideas worth spreading,” as the TED slogan puts it. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. With more than 1,100 talks, it can be difficult to choose a starting point. To help, I’ve selected 10 notable talks related to molecular biology and biochemistry. Discover innovative, high-impact research in these fascinating, inspirational lectures.

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1. ON HOW BACTERIA "TALK"
Bonnie Bassler, Princeton University

For those interested in learning more about how microscopic bacteria can have such a huge impact on human health, Bonnie Bassler in this engaging presentation sheds light on bacterial communication through her studies with the bioluminescent bacteria Vibrio fischeri. Her results may lead not only to better species-specific and broad-spectrum antibiotics but also to therapeutics that will enhance probiotic activity.

FILMED FEBRUARY 2009, 18 MINUTES  


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2. ON THE COMING NEUROLOGICAL EPIDEMIC
Gregory Petsko, Brandeis University

Do you ever think about how long you’ll live? Gregory Petsko informs us that the average lifespan is increasing by five hours every day. But with an increasing lifespan comes an increasing risk for neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Find out how his research with “molecular Scotch tape,” as he puts it, seeks to treat the underlying basis of many neurological disorders. Also keep an eye out for Petsko’s recent TEDMED talk.

FILMED FEBRUARY 2008, 4 MINUTES  


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3. USING NATURE TO GROW BATTERIES
Angela Belcher, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

See what selective evolution produces when you mix M13 bacteriophage, genetic manipulation and the periodic table. Angela Belcher discusses the manipulation of nontoxic viruses to make materials that produce energy. Her promising results may one day lead to her dream — to drive a virus-powered car.

FILMED JANUARY 2011, 10.5 MINUTES  


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4. NEXT-GEN CURE FOR KILLER INFECTIONS
Kary Mullis, Altermune

Nobel laureate Kary Mullis, who developed PCR, shares one of his latest ideas. The human body produces antibodies to galactosyl-alpha(1-3)galactose (alpha-gal), a carbohydrate epitope not found in humans. Mullis’ goal is to link the alpha-gal epitope to a pathogen-specific DNA aptamer, marking the pathogen and enabling the immune system to destroy unwanted infiltrators. His work is aimed at finding a cure for antibiotic-resistant infections.

FILMED FEBRUARY 2009, 4.5 MINUTES  


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5. EXPERIMENTS THAT HINT OF LONGER LIVES
Cynthia Kenyon, University of California, San Francisco

In this presentation, Cynthia Kenyon differentiates between delaying death and extending the youthful, healthy years of life. More importantly, she explains how the latter dream of a longer, more youthful life may be possible by manipulating certain cellular pathways that increase a cell’s resistance to outside stressors and diseases.

FILMED JULY 2011, 16.5 MINUTES  


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6. COLOR-CODED SURGERY
Quyen Nguyen, University of California, San Diego

In collaboration with Nobel laureate Roger Tsien, who discovered and established the use of green fluorescent protein, surgeon Quyen Nguyen discusses the discrimination of tumors from healthy tissue in situ. You’ll see probes specifically mark cancerous cells in one color and nerves in a different color. Their vision is to improve the complete removal of cancerous tissues while minimizing damage to healthy nerves.

FILMED OCTOBER 2011, 16 MINUTES  

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