Several shots of a scientist in a laboratory setting, wearing a white coat and performing a test. Only his hands are visible. The scientist is sorting B-cells taken from the bone marrow of a patient with Lupus disease. The Lupus antibody-producing cell is isolated in a well, to be fused with a cancerous mouse myeloma B-cell, producing a hybridoma. Hybridomas produce identical monoclonal antibodies in large quantities and indefinitely.
Several shots of a scientist in a laboratory setting, wearing a white coat and performing a test. Only his hands are visible. The scientist is sorting B-cells taken from the bone marrow of a patient with Lupus disease. The Lupus antibody-producing cell is isolated in a well, to be fused with a cancerous mouse myeloma B-cell, producing a hybridoma. Hybridomas produce identical monoclonal antibodies in large quantities and indefinitely.

The Omicron Variant with President of Regeneron, George Yancopoulos

Linda Bartlett (Photographer), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

What is the Omicron Variant? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice discuss the emergence of the new Omicron Variant of COVID-19 with biomedical scientist and president of Regeneron, George Yancopoulos. 

How do we create antibodies for infectious diseases? We explore ebola, the Will Smith movie I Am Legend, and special rats with human immune systems! Find out how the immune system makes antibodies and how people can become resistant to a disease. What is “viral load”?  What’s the difference between making vaccines and making antibody treatment? We take a deep dive into the science at the front lines of the pandemic. 

We break down how vaccines work and what monoclonal antibodies are. What’s the difference between mutations of Covid and mutations of the flu? Will we be getting a Covid shot every year? How do we help immunocompromised people who can’t get vaccinated? What does immunocompromised actually mean for their immune system? How does a virus mutate anyway?

What goes behind the naming of the new variants? We take some hard-hitting patron questions like: How is Regeneron working to treat cytokine storms that seem to cause clotting in youth populations? What even is a cytokine? Learn about how our immune systems work to save us, but also how they can put us in danger, too. How do you get medical info out onto the front lines? Should we be worried about every mutation? Would too many false alarms make people ignore a real threat? How do you prevent panic? Is there a glimmer of hope in this new variant? We discuss how it is possible that a new variant could outcompete a current strain and make an overall less deadly version of Covid. Wouldn’t that be nice? All that, plus, Chuck offers some new pandemic-themed video game ideas to pass the time with. 

Thanks to our Patrons Vincent Krohn, Eu, Valeritte (Chuck, just call me Val), Austin McCauley, Avneesh Joshi, Timothy Lew, and Nikki Amberg for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

In This Episode

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