Podcast: A Nasal Spray COVID Booster Shot, With Dr. Akiko Iwasaki

Podcast: A Nasal Spray COVID Booster Shot, With Dr. Akiko Iwasaki

Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale, is working on creating a nasal spray booster after the primary mRNA shots.

Yale

The "Making Sense of Science" podcast features interviews with leading medical and scientific experts about the latest developments and the big ethical and societal questions they raise. This monthly podcast is hosted by journalist Kira Peikoff, founding editor of the award-winning science outlet Leaps.org.


Real-world data shows that protection against Covid-19 infection wanes a few months after two or three shots of mRNA vaccines (while protection against severe disease remains high). But what if there was another kind of booster that could shore up the immune response in your nose, the "door" to your body? Like bouncers at a club, a better prepared nasal defense system could stop the virus in its tracks -- mitigating illnesses as well as community spread. Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale, is working on such a booster, with fantastic results recently reported in mice. In this episode, she shares the details of this important work.

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Kira Peikoff

Kira Peikoff was the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org from 2017 to 2021. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Nautilus, Popular Mechanics, The New York Academy of Sciences, and other outlets. She is also the author of four suspense novels that explore controversial issues arising from scientific innovation: Living Proof, No Time to Die, Die Again Tomorrow, and Mother Knows Best. Peikoff holds a B.A. in Journalism from New York University and an M.S. in Bioethics from Columbia University. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two young sons. Follow her on Twitter @KiraPeikoff.

natural killer cell
NIAID, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

On today’s episode of Making Sense of Science, I’m honored to be joined by Dr. Paul Song, a physician, oncologist, progressive activist and biotech chief medical officer. Through his company, NKGen Biotech, Dr. Song is leveraging the power of patients’ own immune systems by supercharging the body’s natural killer cells to make new treatments for Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Whereas other treatments for Alzheimer’s focus directly on reducing the build-up of proteins in the brain such as amyloid and tau in patients will mild cognitive impairment, NKGen is seeking to help patients that much of the rest of the medical community has written off as hopeless cases, those with late stage Alzheimer’s. And in small studies, NKGen has shown remarkable results, even improvement in the symptoms of people with these very progressed forms of Alzheimer’s, above and beyond slowing down the disease.

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Matt Fuchs
Matt Fuchs is the host of the Making Sense of Science podcast and served previously as the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He writes as a contributor to the Washington Post, and his articles have also appeared in the New York Times, WIRED, Nautilus Magazine, Fortune Magazine and TIME Magazine. Follow him @fuchswriter.
Is there a robot nanny in your child's future?

Some researchers argue that active, playful engagement with a "robot nanny" for a few hours a day is better than several hours in front of a TV or with an iPad.

Andy Kelly

From ROBOTS AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM: Holding on to Our Humanity in an Age of Social Robots by Eve Herold. Copyright © 2024 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

Could the use of robots take some of the workload off teachers, add engagement among students, and ultimately invigorate learning by taking it to a new level that is more consonant with the everyday experiences of young people? Do robots have the potential to become full-fledged educators and further push human teachers out of the profession? The preponderance of opinion on this subject is that, just as AI and medical technology are not going to eliminate doctors, robot teachers will never replace human teachers. Rather, they will change the job of teaching.

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Eve Herold
Eve Herold is an award-winning science writer and consultant in the scientific and medical nonprofit space. A longtime communications and policy executive for scientific organizations, she currently serves as Director of Policy Research and Education for the Healthspan Action Coalition. She has written extensively about issues at the crossroads of science and society, including regenerative medicine, aging and longevity, medical implants, transhumanism, robotics and AI, and bioethical issues in leading-edge medicine. Her books include Stem Cell Wars and Beyond Human, and her latest book, Robots and the People Who Love Them, will be released in January 2024. Her work has appeared in Vice, Medium, The Washington Post and the Boston Globe, among others. She’s a frequent contributor to Leaps.org and is the recipient of the 2019 Arlene Eisenberg Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.