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Professor Michael Betts articulates the dramatic directions our human immune system can take responding to viral pathogenesis. He studies how humans combat viral pathogens and diseases through adaptive immune responses like T and B cell activity.

He shares his perspective on virus capabilities with lively and clear language as Richard asks questions for his upcoming virus book project.

Listeners will learn

  • Why the primary goal of viral replication leads to a variety of fascinating shapes and virus mechanics,
  • How some viruses have a hit-and-run strategy and others want to set up shop and stay, and 
  • What he sees as the most fascinating types of viruses and why. 

Michael Betts is a professor of microbiology with the Penn Institute for Immunology Studies in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He researches the human immune response against viruses in relation to HIV infection and SARS-CoV-2 by focusing on T cell function.

He is able to use his expertise to add interesting perspective to the pathogenesis or protective human immune response. He is able to use examples for his extensive HIV studies to elaborate on how our immune system reacts to all that viruses can send our way.

As they move into Richard’s questions to get at virus characteristics, Dr.

Betts gives his take on whether viruses are alive and why they have evolved to have such a variety of interesting shapes. He describes some of his favorites and adds that while the shapes differ, the strategy is the same.

They’ve evolved to protect and deliver genetic material into the cell.

He adds that these different machines act like spring-loaded mechanisms, and once they get the proper trigger and deliver the genetic payload, we see consequential downstream effects. Even eukaryotic infections, he adds, that are even more complex have this goal—HIV has a wrapper that induces protein confirmation change and shoots the genetic material into the cell. He describes other fascinating examples of viral pathogens in humans as he answers Richard’s questions, filling in more details about the vast world of viruses.

For more about his work, see his lab’s website:

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