A SkepTalk by Dr. Lauren Popov on 13 April 2017
Dr. Popov’s cheerful voice contrasted strangely with the horror of tuberculosis; indeed, she commented on that herself. However, her upbeat delivery and highly informative details kept me and the rest of the audience captivated throughout her presentation.
She began by pointing out that:
Dr. Popov hopes to understand how tuberculosis bacteria manage to avoid destruction by our disease-fighting macrophage cells. In fact, the bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, live and multiply within our macrophages. Conducting her research on tuberculosis is both difficult and dangerous.
Because of the dangers of experimenting with M. tuberculosis, Dr. Popov clothes herself in elaborate garments resembling a spacesuit. A backpack constantly blows filtered air into the suit to prevent an airborne bacterium from entering. Large fans keep the entire laboratory at negative pressure so that no air escapes except through super-fine filters. These necessary measures result in high costs for her research. Acquiring sufficient funding to continue concerns Dr. Popov, especially in this era when science is afforded such a low priority by our federal government.