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Another in the Finding Genius Podcast series on viruses, this captivating conversation with Yale University’s Dr. Takyar explores interesting avenues of the virus-host relationship, offering listeners a glimpse into a top researcher’s understandings of viral characteristics and behavior.

Listeners will hear

  • How his answer to the inevitable question, “are viruses living” provides a new spin,
  • Why a recent study shows that viruses do message each other as translated through cellular machinery, and
  • What his own research may show regarding a virus’s ability to affect surrounding cells in such a way to increase the potential for tumor growth by creating a niche.

Seyedtaghi “Shervin” Takyar, MD, PhD, is a Yale Medicine pulmonologist and an associate professor of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine. His work on disease research his given him an interesting perspective on virus-cell interaction and Richard brings him into this continuing look at viral behaviors. They begin by addressing if viruses are living or nonliving and this gives Dr. Takyar a chance to provide a rich answer in which he says, on the one hand, they are akin to a program in a computer if a computer were consider “life.”

On the other hand, he adds, nature doesn’t have rigid lines, and he would say viruses are at the very least a footprint of life. He explains each of these analogies in more depth and ends his answer with, “it is more interesting to find their place in life,” rather than label them as one or the other. The rest of the podcast examines this place.

The origin and evolution of viruses follows the pattern of life: virus evolution over time just means they’ve found those places that fit best. He explains various behavior with similar language. For example, a virus incubation period depends on their environment.

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They may not express parts of their genome until the right time comes. The right time inside the cell is dictated by a lot of actors—like aging, for example—the increased mortality in older folks with SARS CoV-2 is because those states are codes for the virus: certain parts of the process that it needs to grow are available and this triggers replication.

He shares a brand new behavior confirmed by researchers next, that viruses use the factory inside cells to talk to each other.

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Scientists have shown that bacteriophages use the translation machinery inside the bacteria to translate their message to other viral particles.

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Dr. Takyar shares more of his thoughts with listeners on topics from quasi-species to speculations on viral epigenetics.

For more about Dr. Takyar and his research, start with his lab website:

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