Helminths at the Movies

Several years ago, I was interviewed by a then-graduate student at NYU’s film school.  Sharon Shattuck was studying documentary film making, and with her science background, had stumbled across and become interested in the concept of therapeutic helminths.  She took the train up from NY City, and we spent the afternoon together talking about helminths and autism.  She met my son, Alex, and watched while he drank his little vial of porcine whip worms.  Sharon made a wonderful radio piece about us for a school project and became so fascinated with the topic, that she went on to make a half hour documentary on helminths:  Parasites:  A User’s Guide.

Anyway, Dr. Loke – whose paper I talked about in my last post – is one of the featured researchers interviewed, along with Dr. Joel Weinstock, a gastroenterologist now at Tufts University. They are both among the leading helminth researchers in the world.  The film explains the immunology of therapeutic helminths in a simple and very entertaining fashion.  It’s only $10 on Amazon and I really cannot recommend it more highly.

Back to 2010 or so…Sharon’s film was selected as a finalist in the NY State “Student Academy Awards,” and she invited me to join her and her mother at the viewing and ceremony.  It was there that I had my 15 nanoseconds of fame, as Michael Moore, who was one of the judges, sat down in front of us, turned around, and asked to borrow a pencil from me.

7 years later, I am still awaiting its return!

The end of that story, by the way, is that while Sharon’s film did not get the Best Picture Award, she was the big winner that night. Michael Moore came up to her afterwards, told her it was the best film there and asked her if he could have it show in his personal film festival:  The Traverse City Film Festival.

Another amazing short video on the importance of helminths is this TED talk, Parasites lost: the Journey from Woeful Worms to Helpful Monsters. Of course, I would not call helminths monsters – used therapeutically, they are our very old and dear friends, and I don’t pick my friends based on looks. It’s only about 15 minutes long, and Dr. Christopher Blaner, a parasitologist, does an amazing job of explaining the crucial importance, on so many levels, of helminths.

 


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