Laura writes:

Hello all,

Thank you for a really great show.  I was just wondering what I was going to do today as I am all caught up on TWIV.  Then TWiN miraculously appeared on YouTube.  Not only that, but the first paper dealt with the visual system.

 I am a few years into retirement after a very stimulating career in many scientific fields.  No one in my family speaks ‘science’ so I have missed the discussions I used to have with my colleagues.  The discussions on TWIV gave me a way to focus  on SARS CoV 2 without being petrified of COVID-19.  I was also able to catch up a bit by watching the excellent Virology Course that Vincent teaches.  I really loved the lecture on Virus Structure because my PhD dissertation was in the (then) incipient field of cryo-electron microscopy.  One of my papers was done with Joachim Frank, and I know the researcher (US citizen from India) who did rotavirus structure.  It is amazing to see how the field has been refined to the point that image reconstruction that used to take years is now done so quickly. 

My more recent scientific endeavors involved vision toxicology where I worked with a wonderful team of researchers doing VEP’s and electroretinography.   This is why I was delighted to hear the discussion about transforming glial cells into neurons in the retina and how it translated to the brain.  I’ve avoided CRISPR for years because I’ve always found proteins to be more interesting than the “DNA stuff”, lol. So I was happy to hear how CRISPR worked.  PTB sounds like a cool protein, but wiki doesn’t have much info on its site.  

Just a short note about foreign science students in the US.  My major advisor (US citizen) is from Hong Kong.  The mentor who taught me biochemistry (US citizen) is from Taiwan.  The last visiting scientist I worked with was from Beijing and since returning to China has, I believe, become the head of the Chinese equivalent of the EPA.  Without these people, much incredible research would not have been done. The 3D reconstruction of SARS CoV 2 gave everyone in the world a way to visualize the otherwise invisible threat—a technique that would not have been possible without collaboration between researchers all over the world.  Collaborations keep science vital.

I am really looking forward to the next TWiN.  Thanks so much to all of the contributors to your channel for keeping at least one aging scientist alive in these crazy times.  (As both Rich and the Spanish researcher from New York point out, this pandemic is nothing compared to the looming danger of climate change.)

Thanks again,


Kathleen writes:

Hello Twinners,

Thank you for this fascinating new podcast. 

I would love to hear an episode on the basics of what we know about how the immune system reacts to infections of the central nervous system. How have humans evolved to handle say Powassan virus or herpes encephalitis or HHV6 infection without destroying precious neural tissue?

Also, on a practical level, what does neuroscience teach us about keeping brains healthy throughout our lifespans?

Thank you for taking the time to share your decades of learning with us.



Denver, CO where the weather is always perfect

Timothy writes:

Dear TWiN team,

Firstly, thank you for all your hard work in making such a fun and informative podcast! As a rat psychologist, TWiN is a great way to learn about interesting things that I would normally never think about, such as whether it’s possible to get my body to make antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 by thinking very, very hard.

Speaking of which, in that episode (TWiN 7), the team reviewed a paper that showed that stress can stimulate the spleen via the splenic nerve, leading to increased plasma cell and antibody production. Erin and Ori mentioned that, under certain environments, it may make sense for the body to ramp up adaptive immunity preparedness. This may be especially true for mice (and rats): because they apparently cannot throw up, eating the wrong thing (for example, a dodgy sausage that smells funny) could mean death. Mice (and rats) are therefore notoriously careful around new kinds of food, such as poisonous bait, and will only consume tiny amounts at first (known as food neophobia). Maybe eating new food also triggers a stress response, such that when it is paired with the small amount of ingested toxin (botox in the sausage’s case), the spleen gets kicked into gear and immunizes the mouse against future poisoning, which would result in an evolutionary advantage. Who knows? But it’s fun to think about.

Once again thanks for the wonderful podcast and the interesting discussions. Looking forward to many more episodes!

Best wishes,


P.S. The weather here in NYC is “brain-on-fire heat wave”. According to my COVID monitoring thermometer, my aircon-less apartment’s room temp is currently 38 Celsius. I would be keeping the thermometer cool by keeping it under my tongue. I could have just written a page of utter nonsense for all I know! 

Andrew writes:

Kia ora from Pongaroa,

My first missive to TWIN. You asked for feed back so here it is and it is a partial response to Suellen’s excellent email.

I, as having only studied biology in high school, can follow fairly well what you are saying in the podcast . However, I have had the advantage of listening to TWiX podcasts for quite a while and that helps a lot. There is another resource that I use and have greatly benefited from, are the lectures and videos provided by The University of TWiXas. 

For TWiV there are Vincent’s virology lectures

For TWiP  There are Daniel and Dickson’s  Parasites Without Borders: Parasitic Diseases videos

For Immune there are Brianne Barker’s Immunology lectures

Have any of you made online basic courses on neurology? Or can you recommend any?

Perhaps Vincent could add the above links to them on the appropriate pages on – they helped me maybe they will help others.

On Joshua’s idea to return home to Aotearoa New Zealand. 

If there is no long-lasting vaccine or treatment in the near future, New Zealand is going to be sitting on a lot of hotels and other infrastructure that will be looking for an alternate use. Tourists are not going to come for their annual vacation if they are going to be stuck in quarantine for a large part of  it. I can see a way that some research institutes could relocate into empty hotels etc., with their scientists, who would be able to work without physical distancing constraints. We could become a huge South Seas science park. 

We would, naturally, welcome science educators and establish a block of studios for their use.

A pipe dream – maybe but stranger things have happened.

Ngā mihi,