September 11, 2021

Trojan Horses, Pandora's Box, and Gambling with the Variants of COVID19.

Who are the gamblers? Our leaders at many levels, including those managing our workplaces, towns, cities, counties, and states, continue to underestimate the potential outcomes of COVID variant emergence. What many molecular biologists (scientists who work with DNA and RNA) and mathematicians understand is that the very nature of viral replication makes viruses into ever-changing evolution machines. The strain of COVID19 now running rampant through our network of unvaccinated neighbors is far more infective than the ones we dealt with in early 2020. This is the how and why.

August 30, 2021

Delta: COVID19 Cases and Deaths for Any Country

Sadly, in August 2021, here I am making an update to this post, which I first added here over a year ago, way back in 2020. Here in the United States, as in several other countries, conservative political leaders have gone almost insane. They have conned so many Americans into walking right into a COVID19 pandemic that is now killing off mostly unvaccinated republican voters in counties with low vaccination rates. 

I am a scientist in North America, who has lived and worked on both sides of the US/Canada border, and as a medical research professor, I felt it my duty to use my blog here to provide more awareness with access to numbers that you can trust. This data visualization lets you follow the progress of COVID19 in the USA and other countries, and visualize it over time. I have included some iFrame code to this blog post to give you the ability to change the time frame and even the selection of countries you may be interested in. You can adjust the graph views to suit your need for knowledge.

Currently, in addition to my eye research, I also manage a small local research study in Oakland County, Michigan, to monitor the presence of antibodies to the COVID19 spike protein in persons. My students and I have found that vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer, and J&J, do well at producing antibodies in our test volunteers, including ourselves. We are all vaccinated at this point. So keep wearing a mask, get vaccinated, and think about the people who will not get harmed because you buffer them from this pandemic disease.

The "delta" variant is simple and dangerous. 

I can understand why, because I often make proteins and custom modifications to the structure of proteins for medical research. The purpose of my research at Oakland University is to understand how specific proteins work for vision.  I engineer human proteins, which are required to develop structures in our retinas, for bacterial factory production as potential therapeutics to repair damaged human retinas. For conditions such as Retinopathy of Prematurity and Diabetic Retinopathy. In the 90s I briefly got to do some research on how the HIV protease can also harm a cell's proteins in addition to simply processing the making the more HIV virus. Since then we have the knowledge of the human genome. 

So now I can also tell you that viruses generally replicate their own DNA or RNA sequences with low fidelity. That is the DNA or RNA Polymerases that replicate their DNA/RNA tend to make frequent mistakes, to change their genetic code. This, in turn, changes the components that make up the virus's proteins, including the spike protein you hear about on the news. This "spike protein" is used by the virus to bind to cells that line our sinuses and respiratory tract (lungs). This high error copy rate creates hundreds of variations of the COVID19 spike protein in every person who is infected with COVID19. Most of the errors will result in a less infectious virus but once in while, versions like the delta variant evolve to spread faster and more efficiently. This is the case now in 2021, August. So I am updating and reposting this blog, as we all need to watch how numbers rise again. Numbers of cases and numbers of deaths. As 99.9% of persons entering ICU and 99.9% of those dying from Delta variant in the ICU are unvaccinated, I suggest you get vaccinated ASAP. 

Here are graphs that you can adjust to look at different timelines for cases of illness and deaths for any country. I embedded iFrame code in this posting to give you graphs that you can also adjust. Table and MAP views are also available. Book mark this blog posting so you can return here. The data in these graphs will update automatically. 

June 29, 2021

Bad Pharma Good Pharma: how Patients and their Doctors are fooled about the drugs sold to them.

Snake oil salesmen are alive and well in the 2000's.
They know how to use the Congress to overturn FDA new
review panel recommendations and market away.

Bad Science is simply not doing science right. If you cut corners, never repeat experiments to confirm they are reproducible, bury negative results, then you can end up with egg on your face as a scientist. At best, the target for teasing by your colleagues, or at worst a biomedical company that contributes to the illness or deaths of many people and who will never be trusted again in the science or medical world. As it should be. 


Bad science or medicine seems to happen when money is part of the motivation equation in the form of "for profit". Unfortunately, that is the context where most commercial Pharma research occurs, including clinical trials. With shareholders to pay, there is a strong executive pressure to get the product developed and flying out of the pharmacy on Doctor's prescription pads as soon as possible. This factor, profits, are one of the greatest conflicts of interest (COI) we must manage.

For all of us, as the patient, this can have bad consequences. For our Doctors, they may be making prescription decisions based on information that is skewed or incomplete. They can be in a position where they cannot even get the full story on many of the drugs they must choose from. The Pharmacist will be in the same position as your Doctor. The problem that is keeping all three of us in the dark is reporting bias on the part of the drug developer. That is, under-reporting of negative trial results, and basic cherry-picking of trial results. While we have currently, in the United States, a political effort to reduce government regulations, we already suffer commercial lobbying and political overriding of FDA biomedical science recommendations on drug approvals. This includes ignoring expert panel recommendations to not approve a drug and instead let the company market away. Essentially neutering the ability of the FDA to save us all from snake oil salesmen, even in 2018.

June 26, 2021

Vaccination Update: COVID-19 and your antibodies to the virus.

 In my lab we have been doing side research since mid-summer of 2020 testing persons who recovered from COVID19 for antibodies in their blood. Later, in 2021 we added to the research study process to also test persons after they have been vaccinated with at least one dose of an FDA-approved vaccine. What have we learned in our little local community study here in Oakland County Michigan?

February 20, 2021

We are Reaching Half-A-Million COVID 19 Deaths in the United States.

By the end of Monday 22nd February 2021, we will pass through and above 500,000 deaths from COVID19 in the United States. I calculate and plot the doubling time in days averaged over a moving 7-day period. Doubling time, based on the previous seven days average, as of the end of 2020 had dropped below100 days. The doubling time for US deaths from COVID19 is increasing again early in 2021, as seen in the current graph below.

February 11, 2021

What are the Special Syringes for More Vaccine Doses?

You have heard about the idea of getting an extra dose out of a vaccine vial? It is on the news regularly. The Pfizer vaccine comes in a volume to get 5 doses, but there is some extra volume provided to allow for getting those 5 doses. Then, if you have a special syringe you could get a sixth dose.

How? 

A regular syringe will empty a few hundred microliters of liquid when the plunger is pushed. When the plunger reaches the end of the regular syringe there will still be some liquid in the small channel between the plunger and the start of the fitted needle and inside the needle itself. This is called dead space volume and it can be 70 to 90 microliters. After five uses that adds up to about 400 microliters, almost half of a 1 milliliter (1 cc)  syringe, or at least one extra sixth dose.

There are, however, syringes like special insulin syringes that come with an attached needle and have a very thin, and very short channel between the plunger and the needle. Some have a thin plunger extension that also pushes into the thin channel. As a result of this, these syringes have a very low dead space volume, from 2 to 5 microliters. So, if you have these low dead space syringes, you do not lose that 400 microliters after five injections, so several hundred microliters remain in the vial to give you one more shot. The six shooter!

Ken Mitton