Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, 1925-2011

Baruch Samuel_Blumberg by Tom TrowerGlenn Rall, a virologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center, sent me the following note:

Baruch S. Blumberg, Nobel Laureate in 1976 for discovery of Hepatitis B (and the eventual development of the vaccine, which probably has saved hundreds of thousands of lives since its introduction), died this past Tuesday (4/5/11).  Barry did most of his work at Fox Chase, though he was an inspiration to many of us, and a catalyst for some tremendously exciting scientific conversations. He was active in science all through his life; in fact, just a few weeks ago, he gave a seminar at the Center, and on the morning of the day of his death, he gave a plenary lecture at a NASA meeting in California.  His HBV work was among the first truly translational studies, and his accomplishments are even more notable given that, when he made his major discoveries, he was neither  a cancer biologist nor a virologist.  For those podcast listeners or blog readers who might want to know more about him,  I would refer them to his autobiography from his Nobel acceptance, which I have appended. Our field has lost a creative scientist, a kind and supportive colleague, and a tireless advocate for basic research.

In the 1950s, Blumberg had begun studying variations in human populations by examining blood proteins. He had found a protein in the blood of Australian aborigines, which he called Australia antigen or Au, that was not present in Americans and Europeans. By 1966 he realized that individuals with the Au protein also had hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver. The key to the function of this protein became apparent to Blumberg when serum from a patient in New Jersey became positive for the Au antigen. This finding was a surprise because the individual had previously tested negative for Au. At the same time, the patient developed hepatitis. The discovery lead to the identification of the hepatitis B virus particle, development of blood tests to eliminate the virus from the blood supply, and production of a vaccine to prevent infection. Because chronic hepatitis B frequently leads to carcinoma of the liver, the vaccine has prevented many cancer deaths.

I did not personally know Dr. Blumberg, but we have something in common besides virology: Columbia University. Dr. Blumberg obtained the MD degree in 1951 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which is where I have been doing virus research since 1982.

TWiV 105: Finches score again

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Dickson Despommier, Alan Dove, and Rich Condit

On episode #105 of the podcast This Week in Virology, Vincent, Dickson, Alan, and Rich review eradication of rinderpest, endogenous hepatitis B virus in the zebra finch genome, and identification of the cell receptor for an extinct retrovirus.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #105 (66 MB .mp3, 92 minutes)

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TWiV 80: How much X could a woodchuck chuck?

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Alan Dove, Rich Condit, and Michael Bouchard

Vincent, Alan, and Rich speak with Michael Bouchard about hepatitis B virus discovery, replication, and pathogenesis.

This episode is sponsored by Data Robotics Inc. Use the promotion code TWIVPOD to receive $75-$500 off a Drobo.

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Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #80 (58 MB .mp3, 80 minutes)

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Virology lecture #7: Reverse transcription and integration


Download: .wmv (354 MB) | .mp4 (92 MB)

Visit the virology W3310 home page for a complete list of course resources.

TWiV 66: Reverse transcription

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommier

Vincent and Dickson continue virology 101 with a discussion of information flow from RNA to DNA, a process known as reverse transcription, which occurs in cells infected with retroviruses, hepatitis B virus, cauliflower mosaic virus, foamy viruses, and even in uninfected cells.

This episode is sponsored by Data Robotics Inc. To receive $50 off a Drobo or $100 off a Drobo S, visit drobostore.com and use the promotion code VINCENT.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #66 (50 MB .mp3, 68 minutes)

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Vincent Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS

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