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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
7. SUSPENDED ANIMATION IS WITHIN OUR GRASP
Mark Roth, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Listen to Mark Roth and learn how a toxic gas could one day save lives. In an effort to avert death, Roth uses hydrogen sulfide to slow the body’s metabolism to the point of deanimation, reducing its demand for oxygen and gaining time for life-saving treatment. An injectable form already has passed phase 1 clinical trials.
FILMED FEBRUARY 2010, 18 MINUTES
8. ON THE VERGE OF CREATING SYNTHETIC LIFE
Craig Venter, J. Craig Venter Institute
If you produced a new species of bacteria, what would you name it? In his 2008 talk, Craig Venter shares his research into the synthesis of chromosomes to engineer new species of bacteria. His goals include the production of fuels from CO2 and the development of new vaccines.
FILMED FEBRUARY 2008, 16 MINUTES
9. ANIMATIONS OF UNSEEABLE BIOLOGY
Drew Berry, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Sit back, watch and be amazed as Drew Berry animates DNA replication. Berry’s animations provide an accurate glimpse into the cellular processes occurring in the body. As you watch, you’ll visualize DNA inside the nucleus, view mitosis and watch the kinetochore perform.
FILMED MAY 2011, 10 MINUTES
10. ANIMATING A CELL
David Bolinksy, formerly of XVIVO
Medical illustrator David Bolinsky and his team at XVIVO partnered with scientists at Harvard University to capture the beauty of science. XVIVO’s fascinating animations provide an educational tool and create an appreciation for the cell’s complexity. They may even offer relief as we are reminded that even when we are lazy our bodies are working hard.
FILMED MARCH 2007, 10 MINUTES
11. BONUS: ON GROWING NEW ORGANS
Anthony Atala, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
While this TEDTalk has a regenerative medicine focus, it is quite impressive and well worth an extra 20 minutes. Anthony Atala’s goal to make his patients better may seem straightforward, but his means of doing so are extraordinary. Learn how he engineers in the lab organs for transplantation. You’ll see functional blood vessels, bladders and even a two-chambered heart printed from a desktop printer in 40 minutes.
FILMED OCTOBER 2009, 18 MINUTES