full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Alisa Kazarina: Humanity at the intersection of science and archaeology

Unscramble the Blue Letters

Imagine a parallel uvenrise that coexists in the same place as our universe, in the same space, at the same time. This universe is odvecerword with life forms. It is invisible and intangible like the finest layer of reality, which we cannot notice. But it is there, and it maiannits the functionality of our everyday world. Without it, we just wouldn't exist. Now, would you be surprised if I told you that actually everything I said before is true? Because I'm about to tell you this. I'm talking about the wlrod of microbes - a separate world, yet so deeply ctnenceod to us. And the story of this connection expands far away into the past. But thanks to modern science, we are now able to read this story like a history book. Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present bmllauiceoor archeology, the science behind this history book. And I am here to share with you what fascinating things we can try to manage with this powerful modern science. But let's sratt with the term itself: biomolecular archeology. It's not even easy to pronounce, not to mention to try to understand the essence of this phrase. There might not be a problem with the archeology part, right? We've all seen it in movies, we know what it is about, but what is "biomolecular" anyway? The first thing that comes to mind: it is something about biogoly and mlucleoes. And this is actually correct. A biological molecule, or a biomolecule, is any mcuolele that is present in a living organism. Now, there are all sorts of molecules in your body, but undoubtedly, the most ianftrovmie one is DNA. So, let's bring it back together. Biomolecular archeology enables us to study the DNA recovered from archeological samples. And not only native human DNA, which, of course, all by itself gives lots of study perspectives, but also the DNA of microbes that lived side by side with that human. This science is relatively young. About ten years ago, a massive breakthrough happened in genomic research technology. A method appeared which is cleald NGS, next generation sequencing, and this method significantly cuts time and costs of any gimeonc research. For example, have you ever heard about the Human Genome Project? It was quite a popular topic for science fiction some time ago. This project launched in 1990 with the goal to decrypt all genomic information in a human oaigrsnm. At that time, with the tglnocoehy of the time, it took ten years and three billion dlrolas to reach the goals of this pjeroct. With NGS, all of that can be done in just one day at the cost of 15,000 dollars. On the fertile soil of next generation scqeeniung arose biomolecular archeology because there is a great lot of genomic information to be analyzed and it just wouldn't be possible to maange such research with olden day technology. Now we are able to manage such research OK, "But why?" you could ask me. "What bietnfes can we get out of this information? What can we use it for?" The answer appears to be quite wide. Consider human health as a coepmlx and dynamic system. Apart from genetically determined factors that are stored in our DNA, our health is severely influenced by many other factors, like our lifestyle, our diet, and our fellow microbes. One hundred trillion cells, one and 14 zoers, that's the approximate number of microorganisms in your body, ten times grteear than the nubemr of your own cells. Your microbial baggage ociuceps almost 2% of your body weight, that's about one and a half kilograms, approximately the weight of your liver. Or your brain. And all these are microbes. Just think about it for a second! hamun microbiome, that's the modern term for all microbial communities iitanibnhg your body, has earned a close attention over the last decade. It seems that we are only beginning to discover the mtyruseois role that is given to miobecrs in the penocfrrame of our health. In 2007, the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. launched the Human Microbiome Project to finally sutdy its relation to our health conditions. And since then, it has only become clearer that our notion about our fellow microbes is inexcusably poor. Francis Collins, the director of the noatainl Institutes of hlteah, even compared the researchers involved in the project with the 15th century explorers discovering the outline of a new continent. It is now being suggested that a range of modern, widespread diseases, starting from obesity, Crohn's disease, other gastrointestinal problems to all sorts of allergies, autoimmune diseases, or maybe even cancer, may appear to be consequences of mcrmioobie changes. But where do these changes come from? When did they first appear? What was the tnriggreig factor? These are the questions we are trying to find awrness to at the moment. This topic always triggers a memory of my first conscious experience with the microbial world around. My mother, like any attentive pnreat, tried her best to warn me against the iiiblsvne dgreans of the world, and she told me a story that every time I do not wash hands before eating something, I become a reason of global microbial migration. (lhagtuer) An uncountable number of microbial families come together, pack their suitcases, their TVs, their favorite toys, and levae their houses forever to move to a new area which is thought to be my body. Now, I was a child with a very vivid imagination, and this sorty influenced me so much that I was obsessed with handwashing for a really long time. It actually took me years to overcome the thought that I'm doing something wrong when I initiate this mrbaiciol migration, and to understand finally that they are actually willing to come, they've got friends there waiting for them. I'm not trying to convince you not to ever wash your hands again, of course not. But let's try to be moderate with it. We lack this microbial diversity ndawaoys. And as we know from ecology, the most diverse stsemys are the most stable ones. This might be one of the reasons for our so-called diseases of civilization. And this is exactly the type of hypothesis for biomolecular aoreclohgy to deal with. It turns out that there is a unique archaeological material that so preciously stores the enormous amount of information related to ancient human microbiome, and this material is ancient dental plaque, thanks to the fact that oral cavity hygiene was not on the list of top priorities for humans of the past. Their oral microbiome has already been partly fossilized during their lifetime in the form of dental calculus, which, in turn, stays in soil as well preserved as the skeletons themselves. Sadly, we can't help these fllaes anymore. But they can help us by providing unique and precious information about their microbes and their health, and maybe we will have a chance to help others in the ftruue thanks to them. There is one more vast human health-related apesct where biomolecular archaeology takes its rightful place, and this field of reesarch exdapns into the vlaley of anceint dldaey pathogens. It is true that the vast majority of microbes either provide us some kind of bifeent or do not really care whether there is a human around. But there are some ancient deadly microbes that still reamin an urgent plboerm nowadays all around the world. For example, mrtybaoiccuem tuberculosis. One and a half million deaths in 2014. And OK, OK, I know, the first roaeictn I always get is like, "Wait, aren't there antibiotics?" or "I heard there is even a vaccine; is this daiesse still degnauors to us after all?" The answer is yes; tuberculosis is closer than you think. Because of some mysterious genetic pheoemnonn, there are people that can carry around this mbcrioe their entire lives without developing any symptoms, and there are people that develop spmtmyos straight ahead after iiotcnefn. Let me give you a real example of a tuberculosis microepidemic. Let's say a person somehow got infected. He works as a tecaehr in a jionur school. Half a year later, one of his ppilus develops symptoms. A few monhts later, the older setsir of the pupil. A few more months later, two friends of the sister. This is how it spreads. When I was just starting my research on this topic, I myself was very surprised to know that tuberculosis worldwide remains one of the major health concerns, that on the list of infectious diseases, it is the second most common death cause after HIV. Yes, the fight continues. Did you know we have a tuberculosis clinic right here in Latvia, just outside Riga, where many doctors and other specialists fihgt tuberculosis on a daily basis? To finally beat this harmful bacteria, it is crucial to understand how it evolved, how it developed resistance to abittiinocs, how it spread. And these are the questions where biomolecular archaeology can help us a lot. At the moment, working in the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study crtene, we have managed to identify Mycobacterium toeusublcris in one archaeological sample from the 17th century. We are now in the process of defining its whole genome, so we can understand what type of tuberculosis regeind at that time over the Latvian territories and where it came from. Obviously, biomolecular archaeology impacts humanities as well, such as history and anthropology. These, for example, are the excavations on the sniat Ģertrūdes Cemetery a few years ago. They started very spontaneously. There was an idea to build a shopping center in that area, and there was also information that there might be some medieval burial sites. So the laivtan Institute of History received a request to check it out. And they did actually find a medieval burial site, quite a massive one. Our archaeologists dug out over 500 skoleetns, and found 2,000 more skeletons buried separately in a giant wooden box. But what was it? This couldn't be war because the skeletons lacked war lesions on their bones. Was it hunger? empdiiec? ahogloecary itself cannot take this research any further, we have to intervene with biomolecular mehdtos. Only then can we trace the true reason. The research pseorcs that implements the goals of the science is ficntiaasng, even by itself. It all starts with ancient bones and teeth from ceeeteirms all around Latvia. We then cut out small pieces of these bones and shred them in special sfcnietiic mills to get bone powder. We then extract all the DNA that is captured in a specific bone powder sample, and then we sequence it. Sequencing is the process where the mhacine reads the DNA code and trtnaslaes it into a four-letter code. By the way, it is absolutely fascinating how all genetic information of human beings and all other living creatures on the planet Earth can be written down using the alphabet containing four letters only. It's absolutely not surprising that the result of the sequencing is absolutely unreadable - geagybtis of text consisting of these four leetrts. It then takes time and effort to analyze these data with a variety of computational methods and programming aearohpcps. And at the very end, we get a pretty readable list of all the mcrirnmgoioass from a specific salpme. The field of my research contains three sciences at once: archaeology, biology and computer science, all mxied, merged and connected. It's like the science itself merging and connecting humanity throughout creieunts. Science is like a pyramid: you cannot lay the upper block without a foundation of the blocks beneath. And building this praymid of hlhrcaatee throughout the eirnte human civilization, I believe biomolecular archaeology just opened up a new fitnroer for us. Where do we go from here? It's a question of choice, but I believe that any destination holds fascinating discoveries. But just for now, please remember that you are never alone. (Laughter) You've got a hundred tloiilrn friends that are always there for you. Think about it next time you want to wash your hands. Thank you. (Applause)

Open Cloze

Imagine a parallel ________ that coexists in the same place as our universe, in the same space, at the same time. This universe is ___________ with life forms. It is invisible and intangible like the finest layer of reality, which we cannot notice. But it is there, and it _________ the functionality of our everyday world. Without it, we just wouldn't exist. Now, would you be surprised if I told you that actually everything I said before is true? Because I'm about to tell you this. I'm talking about the _____ of microbes - a separate world, yet so deeply _________ to us. And the story of this connection expands far away into the past. But thanks to modern science, we are now able to read this story like a history book. Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present ____________ archeology, the science behind this history book. And I am here to share with you what fascinating things we can try to manage with this powerful modern science. But let's _____ with the term itself: biomolecular archeology. It's not even easy to pronounce, not to mention to try to understand the essence of this phrase. There might not be a problem with the archeology part, right? We've all seen it in movies, we know what it is about, but what is "biomolecular" anyway? The first thing that comes to mind: it is something about _______ and _________. And this is actually correct. A biological molecule, or a biomolecule, is any ________ that is present in a living organism. Now, there are all sorts of molecules in your body, but undoubtedly, the most ___________ one is DNA. So, let's bring it back together. Biomolecular archeology enables us to study the DNA recovered from archeological samples. And not only native human DNA, which, of course, all by itself gives lots of study perspectives, but also the DNA of microbes that lived side by side with that human. This science is relatively young. About ten years ago, a massive breakthrough happened in genomic research technology. A method appeared which is ______ NGS, next generation sequencing, and this method significantly cuts time and costs of any _______ research. For example, have you ever heard about the Human Genome Project? It was quite a popular topic for science fiction some time ago. This project launched in 1990 with the goal to decrypt all genomic information in a human ________. At that time, with the __________ of the time, it took ten years and three billion _______ to reach the goals of this _______. With NGS, all of that can be done in just one day at the cost of 15,000 dollars. On the fertile soil of next generation __________ arose biomolecular archeology because there is a great lot of genomic information to be analyzed and it just wouldn't be possible to ______ such research with olden day technology. Now we are able to manage such research OK, "But why?" you could ask me. "What ________ can we get out of this information? What can we use it for?" The answer appears to be quite wide. Consider human health as a _______ and dynamic system. Apart from genetically determined factors that are stored in our DNA, our health is severely influenced by many other factors, like our lifestyle, our diet, and our fellow microbes. One hundred trillion cells, one and 14 _____, that's the approximate number of microorganisms in your body, ten times _______ than the ______ of your own cells. Your microbial baggage ________ almost 2% of your body weight, that's about one and a half kilograms, approximately the weight of your liver. Or your brain. And all these are microbes. Just think about it for a second! _____ microbiome, that's the modern term for all microbial communities __________ your body, has earned a close attention over the last decade. It seems that we are only beginning to discover the __________ role that is given to ________ in the ___________ of our health. In 2007, the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. launched the Human Microbiome Project to finally _____ its relation to our health conditions. And since then, it has only become clearer that our notion about our fellow microbes is inexcusably poor. Francis Collins, the director of the ________ Institutes of ______, even compared the researchers involved in the project with the 15th century explorers discovering the outline of a new continent. It is now being suggested that a range of modern, widespread diseases, starting from obesity, Crohn's disease, other gastrointestinal problems to all sorts of allergies, autoimmune diseases, or maybe even cancer, may appear to be consequences of __________ changes. But where do these changes come from? When did they first appear? What was the __________ factor? These are the questions we are trying to find _______ to at the moment. This topic always triggers a memory of my first conscious experience with the microbial world around. My mother, like any attentive ______, tried her best to warn me against the _________ _______ of the world, and she told me a story that every time I do not wash hands before eating something, I become a reason of global microbial migration. (________) An uncountable number of microbial families come together, pack their suitcases, their TVs, their favorite toys, and _____ their houses forever to move to a new area which is thought to be my body. Now, I was a child with a very vivid imagination, and this _____ influenced me so much that I was obsessed with handwashing for a really long time. It actually took me years to overcome the thought that I'm doing something wrong when I initiate this _________ migration, and to understand finally that they are actually willing to come, they've got friends there waiting for them. I'm not trying to convince you not to ever wash your hands again, of course not. But let's try to be moderate with it. We lack this microbial diversity ________. And as we know from ecology, the most diverse _______ are the most stable ones. This might be one of the reasons for our so-called diseases of civilization. And this is exactly the type of hypothesis for biomolecular __________ to deal with. It turns out that there is a unique archaeological material that so preciously stores the enormous amount of information related to ancient human microbiome, and this material is ancient dental plaque, thanks to the fact that oral cavity hygiene was not on the list of top priorities for humans of the past. Their oral microbiome has already been partly fossilized during their lifetime in the form of dental calculus, which, in turn, stays in soil as well preserved as the skeletons themselves. Sadly, we can't help these ______ anymore. But they can help us by providing unique and precious information about their microbes and their health, and maybe we will have a chance to help others in the ______ thanks to them. There is one more vast human health-related ______ where biomolecular archaeology takes its rightful place, and this field of ________ _______ into the ______ of _______ ______ pathogens. It is true that the vast majority of microbes either provide us some kind of _______ or do not really care whether there is a human around. But there are some ancient deadly microbes that still ______ an urgent _______ nowadays all around the world. For example, _____________ tuberculosis. One and a half million deaths in 2014. And OK, OK, I know, the first ________ I always get is like, "Wait, aren't there antibiotics?" or "I heard there is even a vaccine; is this _______ still _________ to us after all?" The answer is yes; tuberculosis is closer than you think. Because of some mysterious genetic __________, there are people that can carry around this _______ their entire lives without developing any symptoms, and there are people that develop ________ straight ahead after _________. Let me give you a real example of a tuberculosis microepidemic. Let's say a person somehow got infected. He works as a _______ in a ______ school. Half a year later, one of his ______ develops symptoms. A few ______ later, the older ______ of the pupil. A few more months later, two friends of the sister. This is how it spreads. When I was just starting my research on this topic, I myself was very surprised to know that tuberculosis worldwide remains one of the major health concerns, that on the list of infectious diseases, it is the second most common death cause after HIV. Yes, the fight continues. Did you know we have a tuberculosis clinic right here in Latvia, just outside Riga, where many doctors and other specialists _____ tuberculosis on a daily basis? To finally beat this harmful bacteria, it is crucial to understand how it evolved, how it developed resistance to ___________, how it spread. And these are the questions where biomolecular archaeology can help us a lot. At the moment, working in the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study ______, we have managed to identify Mycobacterium ____________ in one archaeological sample from the 17th century. We are now in the process of defining its whole genome, so we can understand what type of tuberculosis _______ at that time over the Latvian territories and where it came from. Obviously, biomolecular archaeology impacts humanities as well, such as history and anthropology. These, for example, are the excavations on the _____ Ģertrūdes Cemetery a few years ago. They started very spontaneously. There was an idea to build a shopping center in that area, and there was also information that there might be some medieval burial sites. So the _______ Institute of History received a request to check it out. And they did actually find a medieval burial site, quite a massive one. Our archaeologists dug out over 500 _________, and found 2,000 more skeletons buried separately in a giant wooden box. But what was it? This couldn't be war because the skeletons lacked war lesions on their bones. Was it hunger? ________? ___________ itself cannot take this research any further, we have to intervene with biomolecular _______. Only then can we trace the true reason. The research _______ that implements the goals of the science is ___________, even by itself. It all starts with ancient bones and teeth from __________ all around Latvia. We then cut out small pieces of these bones and shred them in special __________ mills to get bone powder. We then extract all the DNA that is captured in a specific bone powder sample, and then we sequence it. Sequencing is the process where the _______ reads the DNA code and __________ it into a four-letter code. By the way, it is absolutely fascinating how all genetic information of human beings and all other living creatures on the planet Earth can be written down using the alphabet containing four letters only. It's absolutely not surprising that the result of the sequencing is absolutely unreadable - _________ of text consisting of these four _______. It then takes time and effort to analyze these data with a variety of computational methods and programming __________. And at the very end, we get a pretty readable list of all the ______________ from a specific ______. The field of my research contains three sciences at once: archaeology, biology and computer science, all _____, merged and connected. It's like the science itself merging and connecting humanity throughout _________. Science is like a pyramid: you cannot lay the upper block without a foundation of the blocks beneath. And building this _______ of __________ throughout the ______ human civilization, I believe biomolecular archaeology just opened up a new ________ for us. Where do we go from here? It's a question of choice, but I believe that any destination holds fascinating discoveries. But just for now, please remember that you are never alone. (Laughter) You've got a hundred ________ friends that are always there for you. Think about it next time you want to wash your hands. Thank you. (Applause)

Solution

  1. nowadays
  2. parent
  3. centuries
  4. national
  5. microbe
  6. reaction
  7. letters
  8. greater
  9. future
  10. human
  11. maintains
  12. story
  13. leave
  14. fight
  15. microbial
  16. deadly
  17. epidemic
  18. sequencing
  19. performance
  20. mycobacterium
  21. sample
  22. sister
  23. start
  24. infection
  25. triggering
  26. molecule
  27. manage
  28. study
  29. occupies
  30. latvian
  31. gigabytes
  32. remain
  33. molecules
  34. invisible
  35. expands
  36. machine
  37. months
  38. health
  39. saint
  40. junior
  41. teacher
  42. antibiotics
  43. fellas
  44. informative
  45. universe
  46. microbiome
  47. pyramid
  48. research
  49. phenomenon
  50. entire
  51. mixed
  52. reigned
  53. dangerous
  54. biology
  55. valley
  56. biomolecular
  57. systems
  58. translates
  59. genomic
  60. number
  61. symptoms
  62. connected
  63. frontier
  64. skeletons
  65. cemeteries
  66. laughter
  67. dangers
  68. trillion
  69. approaches
  70. aspect
  71. process
  72. methods
  73. archeology
  74. microbes
  75. world
  76. organism
  77. overcrowded
  78. scientific
  79. benefit
  80. microorganisms
  81. problem
  82. tuberculosis
  83. benefits
  84. ancient
  85. mysterious
  86. dollars
  87. archaeology
  88. fascinating
  89. answers
  90. pupils
  91. technology
  92. project
  93. inhabiting
  94. healthcare
  95. centre
  96. zeros
  97. called
  98. complex
  99. disease

Original Text

Imagine a parallel universe that coexists in the same place as our universe, in the same space, at the same time. This universe is overcrowded with life forms. It is invisible and intangible like the finest layer of reality, which we cannot notice. But it is there, and it maintains the functionality of our everyday world. Without it, we just wouldn't exist. Now, would you be surprised if I told you that actually everything I said before is true? Because I'm about to tell you this. I'm talking about the world of microbes - a separate world, yet so deeply connected to us. And the story of this connection expands far away into the past. But thanks to modern science, we are now able to read this story like a history book. Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present biomolecular archeology, the science behind this history book. And I am here to share with you what fascinating things we can try to manage with this powerful modern science. But let's start with the term itself: biomolecular archeology. It's not even easy to pronounce, not to mention to try to understand the essence of this phrase. There might not be a problem with the archeology part, right? We've all seen it in movies, we know what it is about, but what is "biomolecular" anyway? The first thing that comes to mind: it is something about biology and molecules. And this is actually correct. A biological molecule, or a biomolecule, is any molecule that is present in a living organism. Now, there are all sorts of molecules in your body, but undoubtedly, the most informative one is DNA. So, let's bring it back together. Biomolecular archeology enables us to study the DNA recovered from archeological samples. And not only native human DNA, which, of course, all by itself gives lots of study perspectives, but also the DNA of microbes that lived side by side with that human. This science is relatively young. About ten years ago, a massive breakthrough happened in genomic research technology. A method appeared which is called NGS, next generation sequencing, and this method significantly cuts time and costs of any genomic research. For example, have you ever heard about the Human Genome Project? It was quite a popular topic for science fiction some time ago. This project launched in 1990 with the goal to decrypt all genomic information in a human organism. At that time, with the technology of the time, it took ten years and three billion dollars to reach the goals of this project. With NGS, all of that can be done in just one day at the cost of 15,000 dollars. On the fertile soil of next generation sequencing arose biomolecular archeology because there is a great lot of genomic information to be analyzed and it just wouldn't be possible to manage such research with olden day technology. Now we are able to manage such research OK, "But why?" you could ask me. "What benefits can we get out of this information? What can we use it for?" The answer appears to be quite wide. Consider human health as a complex and dynamic system. Apart from genetically determined factors that are stored in our DNA, our health is severely influenced by many other factors, like our lifestyle, our diet, and our fellow microbes. One hundred trillion cells, one and 14 zeros, that's the approximate number of microorganisms in your body, ten times greater than the number of your own cells. Your microbial baggage occupies almost 2% of your body weight, that's about one and a half kilograms, approximately the weight of your liver. Or your brain. And all these are microbes. Just think about it for a second! Human microbiome, that's the modern term for all microbial communities inhabiting your body, has earned a close attention over the last decade. It seems that we are only beginning to discover the mysterious role that is given to microbes in the performance of our health. In 2007, the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. launched the Human Microbiome Project to finally study its relation to our health conditions. And since then, it has only become clearer that our notion about our fellow microbes is inexcusably poor. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, even compared the researchers involved in the project with the 15th century explorers discovering the outline of a new continent. It is now being suggested that a range of modern, widespread diseases, starting from obesity, Crohn's disease, other gastrointestinal problems to all sorts of allergies, autoimmune diseases, or maybe even cancer, may appear to be consequences of microbiome changes. But where do these changes come from? When did they first appear? What was the triggering factor? These are the questions we are trying to find answers to at the moment. This topic always triggers a memory of my first conscious experience with the microbial world around. My mother, like any attentive parent, tried her best to warn me against the invisible dangers of the world, and she told me a story that every time I do not wash hands before eating something, I become a reason of global microbial migration. (Laughter) An uncountable number of microbial families come together, pack their suitcases, their TVs, their favorite toys, and leave their houses forever to move to a new area which is thought to be my body. Now, I was a child with a very vivid imagination, and this story influenced me so much that I was obsessed with handwashing for a really long time. It actually took me years to overcome the thought that I'm doing something wrong when I initiate this microbial migration, and to understand finally that they are actually willing to come, they've got friends there waiting for them. I'm not trying to convince you not to ever wash your hands again, of course not. But let's try to be moderate with it. We lack this microbial diversity nowadays. And as we know from ecology, the most diverse systems are the most stable ones. This might be one of the reasons for our so-called diseases of civilization. And this is exactly the type of hypothesis for biomolecular archeology to deal with. It turns out that there is a unique archaeological material that so preciously stores the enormous amount of information related to ancient human microbiome, and this material is ancient dental plaque, thanks to the fact that oral cavity hygiene was not on the list of top priorities for humans of the past. Their oral microbiome has already been partly fossilized during their lifetime in the form of dental calculus, which, in turn, stays in soil as well preserved as the skeletons themselves. Sadly, we can't help these fellas anymore. But they can help us by providing unique and precious information about their microbes and their health, and maybe we will have a chance to help others in the future thanks to them. There is one more vast human health-related aspect where biomolecular archaeology takes its rightful place, and this field of research expands into the valley of ancient deadly pathogens. It is true that the vast majority of microbes either provide us some kind of benefit or do not really care whether there is a human around. But there are some ancient deadly microbes that still remain an urgent problem nowadays all around the world. For example, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. One and a half million deaths in 2014. And OK, OK, I know, the first reaction I always get is like, "Wait, aren't there antibiotics?" or "I heard there is even a vaccine; is this disease still dangerous to us after all?" The answer is yes; tuberculosis is closer than you think. Because of some mysterious genetic phenomenon, there are people that can carry around this microbe their entire lives without developing any symptoms, and there are people that develop symptoms straight ahead after infection. Let me give you a real example of a tuberculosis microepidemic. Let's say a person somehow got infected. He works as a teacher in a junior school. Half a year later, one of his pupils develops symptoms. A few months later, the older sister of the pupil. A few more months later, two friends of the sister. This is how it spreads. When I was just starting my research on this topic, I myself was very surprised to know that tuberculosis worldwide remains one of the major health concerns, that on the list of infectious diseases, it is the second most common death cause after HIV. Yes, the fight continues. Did you know we have a tuberculosis clinic right here in Latvia, just outside Riga, where many doctors and other specialists fight tuberculosis on a daily basis? To finally beat this harmful bacteria, it is crucial to understand how it evolved, how it developed resistance to antibiotics, how it spread. And these are the questions where biomolecular archaeology can help us a lot. At the moment, working in the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, we have managed to identify Mycobacterium tuberculosis in one archaeological sample from the 17th century. We are now in the process of defining its whole genome, so we can understand what type of tuberculosis reigned at that time over the Latvian territories and where it came from. Obviously, biomolecular archaeology impacts humanities as well, such as history and anthropology. These, for example, are the excavations on the Saint Ģertrūdes Cemetery a few years ago. They started very spontaneously. There was an idea to build a shopping center in that area, and there was also information that there might be some medieval burial sites. So the Latvian Institute of History received a request to check it out. And they did actually find a medieval burial site, quite a massive one. Our archaeologists dug out over 500 skeletons, and found 2,000 more skeletons buried separately in a giant wooden box. But what was it? This couldn't be war because the skeletons lacked war lesions on their bones. Was it hunger? Epidemic? Archaeology itself cannot take this research any further, we have to intervene with biomolecular methods. Only then can we trace the true reason. The research process that implements the goals of the science is fascinating, even by itself. It all starts with ancient bones and teeth from cemeteries all around Latvia. We then cut out small pieces of these bones and shred them in special scientific mills to get bone powder. We then extract all the DNA that is captured in a specific bone powder sample, and then we sequence it. Sequencing is the process where the machine reads the DNA code and translates it into a four-letter code. By the way, it is absolutely fascinating how all genetic information of human beings and all other living creatures on the planet Earth can be written down using the alphabet containing four letters only. It's absolutely not surprising that the result of the sequencing is absolutely unreadable - gigabytes of text consisting of these four letters. It then takes time and effort to analyze these data with a variety of computational methods and programming approaches. And at the very end, we get a pretty readable list of all the microorganisms from a specific sample. The field of my research contains three sciences at once: archaeology, biology and computer science, all mixed, merged and connected. It's like the science itself merging and connecting humanity throughout centuries. Science is like a pyramid: you cannot lay the upper block without a foundation of the blocks beneath. And building this pyramid of healthcare throughout the entire human civilization, I believe biomolecular archaeology just opened up a new frontier for us. Where do we go from here? It's a question of choice, but I believe that any destination holds fascinating discoveries. But just for now, please remember that you are never alone. (Laughter) You've got a hundred trillion friends that are always there for you. Think about it next time you want to wash your hands. Thank you. (Applause)

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
biomolecular archeology 4
biomolecular archaeology 4
history book 2
ten years 2
genomic research 2
genomic information 2
fellow microbes 2
national institutes 2
ancient deadly 2
mycobacterium tuberculosis 2
medieval burial 2
bone powder 2

Important Words

  1. absolutely
  2. allergies
  3. alphabet
  4. amount
  5. analyze
  6. analyzed
  7. ancient
  8. answer
  9. answers
  10. anthropology
  11. antibiotics
  12. anymore
  13. appeared
  14. appears
  15. applause
  16. approaches
  17. approximate
  18. approximately
  19. archaeological
  20. archaeologists
  21. archaeology
  22. archeological
  23. archeology
  24. area
  25. arose
  26. aspect
  27. attention
  28. attentive
  29. autoimmune
  30. bacteria
  31. baggage
  32. basis
  33. beat
  34. beginning
  35. beings
  36. beneath
  37. benefit
  38. benefits
  39. billion
  40. biological
  41. biology
  42. biomedical
  43. biomolecular
  44. biomolecule
  45. block
  46. blocks
  47. body
  48. bone
  49. bones
  50. book
  51. box
  52. brain
  53. breakthrough
  54. bring
  55. build
  56. building
  57. burial
  58. buried
  59. calculus
  60. called
  61. cancer
  62. captured
  63. care
  64. carry
  65. cavity
  66. cells
  67. cemeteries
  68. cemetery
  69. center
  70. centre
  71. centuries
  72. century
  73. chance
  74. check
  75. child
  76. choice
  77. civilization
  78. clearer
  79. clinic
  80. close
  81. closer
  82. code
  83. coexists
  84. collins
  85. common
  86. communities
  87. compared
  88. complex
  89. computational
  90. computer
  91. concerns
  92. conditions
  93. connected
  94. connecting
  95. connection
  96. conscious
  97. consequences
  98. consisting
  99. continent
  100. continues
  101. convince
  102. correct
  103. cost
  104. costs
  105. creatures
  106. crucial
  107. cut
  108. cuts
  109. daily
  110. dangerous
  111. dangers
  112. data
  113. day
  114. deadly
  115. deal
  116. death
  117. deaths
  118. decade
  119. decrypt
  120. deeply
  121. defining
  122. dental
  123. destination
  124. determined
  125. develop
  126. developed
  127. developing
  128. develops
  129. diet
  130. director
  131. discover
  132. discoveries
  133. discovering
  134. disease
  135. diseases
  136. diverse
  137. diversity
  138. dna
  139. doctors
  140. dollars
  141. dug
  142. dynamic
  143. earned
  144. earth
  145. easy
  146. eating
  147. ecology
  148. effort
  149. enables
  150. enormous
  151. entire
  152. epidemic
  153. essence
  154. everyday
  155. evolved
  156. excavations
  157. exist
  158. expands
  159. experience
  160. explorers
  161. extract
  162. fact
  163. factor
  164. factors
  165. families
  166. fascinating
  167. favorite
  168. fellas
  169. fellow
  170. fertile
  171. fiction
  172. field
  173. fight
  174. finally
  175. find
  176. finest
  177. form
  178. forms
  179. fossilized
  180. foundation
  181. francis
  182. friends
  183. frontier
  184. functionality
  185. future
  186. gastrointestinal
  187. generation
  188. genetic
  189. genetically
  190. genome
  191. genomic
  192. gentlemen
  193. giant
  194. gigabytes
  195. give
  196. global
  197. goal
  198. goals
  199. great
  200. greater
  201. hands
  202. handwashing
  203. happened
  204. harmful
  205. health
  206. healthcare
  207. heard
  208. history
  209. hiv
  210. holds
  211. houses
  212. human
  213. humanities
  214. humanity
  215. humans
  216. hunger
  217. hygiene
  218. hypothesis
  219. idea
  220. identify
  221. imagination
  222. imagine
  223. impacts
  224. implements
  225. inexcusably
  226. infected
  227. infection
  228. infectious
  229. influenced
  230. information
  231. informative
  232. inhabiting
  233. initiate
  234. institute
  235. institutes
  236. intangible
  237. intervene
  238. invisible
  239. involved
  240. junior
  241. kilograms
  242. kind
  243. lack
  244. lacked
  245. ladies
  246. latvia
  247. latvian
  248. laughter
  249. launched
  250. lay
  251. layer
  252. leave
  253. lesions
  254. letters
  255. life
  256. lifestyle
  257. lifetime
  258. list
  259. lived
  260. liver
  261. lives
  262. living
  263. long
  264. lot
  265. lots
  266. machine
  267. maintains
  268. major
  269. majority
  270. manage
  271. managed
  272. massive
  273. material
  274. medieval
  275. memory
  276. mention
  277. merged
  278. merging
  279. method
  280. methods
  281. microbe
  282. microbes
  283. microbial
  284. microbiome
  285. microepidemic
  286. microorganisms
  287. migration
  288. million
  289. mills
  290. mixed
  291. moderate
  292. modern
  293. molecule
  294. molecules
  295. moment
  296. months
  297. mother
  298. move
  299. movies
  300. mycobacterium
  301. mysterious
  302. national
  303. native
  304. ngs
  305. notice
  306. notion
  307. nowadays
  308. number
  309. obesity
  310. obsessed
  311. occupies
  312. olden
  313. older
  314. opened
  315. oral
  316. organism
  317. outline
  318. overcome
  319. overcrowded
  320. pack
  321. parallel
  322. parent
  323. part
  324. partly
  325. pathogens
  326. people
  327. performance
  328. person
  329. perspectives
  330. phenomenon
  331. phrase
  332. pieces
  333. place
  334. planet
  335. plaque
  336. poor
  337. popular
  338. powder
  339. powerful
  340. precious
  341. preciously
  342. present
  343. preserved
  344. pretty
  345. priorities
  346. problem
  347. problems
  348. process
  349. programming
  350. project
  351. pronounce
  352. proudly
  353. provide
  354. providing
  355. pupil
  356. pupils
  357. pyramid
  358. question
  359. questions
  360. range
  361. reach
  362. reaction
  363. read
  364. readable
  365. reads
  366. real
  367. reality
  368. reason
  369. reasons
  370. received
  371. recovered
  372. reigned
  373. related
  374. relation
  375. remain
  376. remains
  377. remember
  378. request
  379. research
  380. researchers
  381. resistance
  382. result
  383. riga
  384. rightful
  385. role
  386. sadly
  387. saint
  388. sample
  389. samples
  390. school
  391. science
  392. sciences
  393. scientific
  394. separate
  395. separately
  396. sequence
  397. sequencing
  398. severely
  399. share
  400. shopping
  401. shred
  402. side
  403. significantly
  404. sister
  405. site
  406. sites
  407. skeletons
  408. small
  409. soil
  410. sorts
  411. space
  412. special
  413. specialists
  414. specific
  415. spontaneously
  416. spread
  417. spreads
  418. stable
  419. start
  420. started
  421. starting
  422. starts
  423. stays
  424. stored
  425. stores
  426. story
  427. straight
  428. study
  429. suggested
  430. suitcases
  431. surprised
  432. surprising
  433. symptoms
  434. system
  435. systems
  436. takes
  437. talking
  438. teacher
  439. technology
  440. teeth
  441. ten
  442. term
  443. territories
  444. text
  445. thought
  446. time
  447. times
  448. told
  449. top
  450. topic
  451. toys
  452. trace
  453. translates
  454. triggering
  455. triggers
  456. trillion
  457. true
  458. tuberculosis
  459. turn
  460. turns
  461. tvs
  462. type
  463. uncountable
  464. understand
  465. undoubtedly
  466. unique
  467. universe
  468. unreadable
  469. upper
  470. urgent
  471. valley
  472. variety
  473. vast
  474. vivid
  475. waiting
  476. war
  477. warn
  478. wash
  479. weight
  480. wide
  481. widespread
  482. wooden
  483. working
  484. works
  485. world
  486. worldwide
  487. written
  488. wrong
  489. year
  490. years
  491. young
  492. zeros
  493. ģertrūdes