Genomics Blog

June 22, 2015 7:26 AM
Digital Literacy: Skills for the Internet
Filed Under: Gerry Ward | 0 Comments
I found it somewhat ironic when I read a National Post article titled “Rare flesh-eating bacteria invades Florida beaches and kills two people. Swimming puts you at risk”. Since this headline came just a day after headlines revealing that two teenage swimmers lost limbs to sharks in waters off the eastern coast of the United States, I tweeted “Not just sharks, rare flesh-eating bacteria kill two Florida swimmers” with a link to the article. Within about 3 minutes I had a reply to the tweet from the Florida Health Department telling me that “#VibrioVulnificus is not a flesh-eating bacteria. For accurate information, please visit:” and they linked to their website.
June 9, 2015 8:06 AM
Traffic Light Analogy: A Model for Cancer
Filed Under: Gerry Ward | 0 Comments
If you were to spread bacteria onto a nutrient agar plate, in a short period of time the bacteria would grow to cover the entire plate surface. The only limiting factor would be the edge of the plate. Imagine if the plate were the size of a football field, would the bacteria still cover the entire surface? If you started with only one type of bacterial cell, all of the cells covering the plate would be the same. Now consider the growth of our own cells. For example, how do our liver cells know when to grow and when to stop? The liver cells receive go and stop signals from neighboring cells and when this process goes wrong, cells can grow uncontrolled resulting in cancer. Our current model of cancer is somewhat more complex than that.
May 28, 2015 2:47 PM
A brief history of cancer and the role of genetics
Filed Under: Gerry Ward | 0 Comments
The Canadian Cancer Society in a press release this week stated that over the next 15 years we can expect a 40% increase in the number of cancer cases. They were very clear in their second paragraph that: “Tremendous progress has already been made in the fight against cancer, including big gains in survival rates. But Canada’s rapidly aging population – 1 in 4 Canadians will be 65 or older by 2030 – could push the country beyond its current capacity to provide adequate care for cancer patients.” There is no increased cancer risk to the individual. Suggestions were made to change lifestyle and environmental exposure; that is not something new. The fact that Canadians are an aging population and that the risk of cancer increases with age is not new news either. The message seems to be that we as a society need to get ready for the increased numbers of cancer patients in the coming years. I had already planned to write about the current model of cancer based on the FutureLearn MOOC that I participated in. Prior to presenting the model, I want to look at a brief history of cancer.
May 18, 2015 8:31 AM
Brilliant Blunders - a review
Filed Under: Gerry Ward | 0 Comments
Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of the Universe, by Mario Livio.

Several times as I was reading this book I was in a public area and, surprisingly, I had several individuals ask me what it was about. Perhaps the title and book cover intrigued them as much as me. It was easy to tell them because the author laid out his plan in the initial chapter.
May 11, 2015 7:37 AM
MOOCs - lifelong learning made easy
Filed Under: Gerry Ward | 0 Comments
English is a fascinating language. Bill Bryson in his book The Mother Tongue explains that English favours crisp truncations with many words coming from acronyms. Many of us have probably only known the word laser without knowing its etymology. Laser began as the acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Another word, MOOC, introduced as an acronym for massive open online course in 2008 describes a model for delivering online content to any person who wishes access to learning. The New York Times named 2012 the year of the MOOC. MOOCs are a new and cool way to add some structure to lifelong learning. The price is right, free in many cases, you pay only if you wish to have a certificate or gain credits towards a degree. This is my experience with a MOOC.