Investigating the Human Virome with Frederic Bushman

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May 27 2020 36 mins  
Professor Bushman has been studying microbes since the early 80s and was involved in researching HIV pathogenesis, developing in vitro HIV integration that led to integration inhibitors for treatment. He shares interesting details about viruses with readers, such as Different types of retroviruses and which type are part of the human genome, The pathogenesis of some viruses and the variety of phages, and His recent study involving the development of a baby’s microbiome and virome. Frederic Bushman, Ph.D., is the William Maul Measey Professor and Chair of Microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He shares with listeners how his own interest in the field developed and then begins by addressing ways we understand viruses as scientists consider efforts like gene therapy. For example, he explains that HIV integrates into the host cell, which is why it is so difficult to get rid of it. However, it does not act on the scale of endogenous retroviruses, which infect germ cells and expand into every bodily cell as we grow. He says that the human genome is composed of 8% viral genes from these viruses. The conversation then turns to the microbiome, virome, and bacteria phages and he reminds listeners of the vast number of viruses in the world. In fact, he talks of a “dark matter” existence level of viruses that researchers are just beginning to try and investigate. While the public may mainly hear about viruses in terms of pathogenesis and gene therapy, their involvement in our world and evolution is complex and far beyond these issues. He also talks about his findings about to be published in Nature. He and his team studied the development of a baby’s microbiome and found that at birth, a baby is without bacterial colonists. He explains how the microbiome develops alongside integrative prophages. For prospective students wanting to enter the field, he suggests trying to formulate a question that’s interesting, important, and answerable. To find out more, he suggests searching his name and the term “virome.” In addition, his faculty page has links to some of his publications: