Episode 10: Vic Zamloot on Immuno-oncology and using bacteria to blast tumors

Image: Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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Charles: This is Assigned Scientist at Bachelor’s, I’m Charles and I’m an entomologist.

Tessa: And I’m Tessa and I’m an astrobiologist.

Charles: And today we have another guest: Vic Zamloot. Hi Vic.

Vic: Hi.

Charles: Um, so normally, uh, we start off just asking people how they got into science and what their interest in science are.

Vic: I am one of those people who I guess was always into science when I started learning about biology starting, and I think in about sxth grade was when we started actually focusing on specific science subjects and not just having science as a general topic. And as soon as they started talking about genetics that’s when I was convinced… that genetics was the be all and end all of the universe and that’s how everything worked and it was so fascinating.

Charles: So your focus now is immune-oncology, right?

Vic: Yes.

Charles: Can you describe sort of what that is?

Vic: Immuno-oncology is kind of the field of using immunological systems and the setup that we already have in the body to fight cancer. So cancer, you know, is the result of a number of different biological circumstances and, honestly, failures of systems to work properly.

So, uh, we try and use immunology and what we already have to fix those problems rather than necessarily bringing in these really harsh drugs, such as typical chemotherapy drugs, to fight it as that just kind of, you know, ravages everything.

Charles: What does that mean in practical terms? Like what kind of tools are you using to motivate these systems?

Vic: So I can at least give a little brief on my own research in that, uh, part of it focuses on using these tools called bio beacons. And what, what that means is we use actually Salmonella, which you would think is a terrible thing to introduce into the human body, but we’ve engineered it so that it goes into a tumor and it recruits all of these immunological subsets.

So there are a bunch of different types of immune cells and some of the immune cells are really, really good at killing a tumor. And some other immune cells are really good at protecting the tumor. So it’s like immune system doesn’t exactly know what it wants to do with, in regards to a tumor, it’s either a foreign substance or it’s part of the body.

And it wants to say that, so using immune-oncology to fight cancer would be using tools such as recruiting the right types of things, immune cells to kill a tumor or reducing parts of the tumor. So that more immunological drugs such as antibodies, you can use antibodies to get in there. Immuno-oncology also involves, uh, engineered T cells.

Like, uh, I don’t know if you guys have heard of CAR T cells, but that’s essentially taking someone’s T-cells out and engineering ’em and sticking them back in so that they will only kill tumor cells. So it’s basically just taking parts of the body that you want to use, to fight a tumor and sticking them back in the person so that it only attacks the tumor and not the rest of a person’s body.

Charles: What motivates an immune cell to think that a tumor is, to put it very simply, good versus bad?

Vic:  Yeah. There’s some the best way that I can explain that is that it can come down to inflammation. So some immune cells will cause certain secretions to happen within the body and some of those secretions, or cytokines, are things that will cause inflammation in the human.

Yeah. So that’s like a common immune response that you get inflammation, um, in regards to like an injury or an illness or something to try but then some of these cytokines, secretions are also anti-inflammatory because inflammation can also cause damage to the human body. There’s kind of these fighting signals of they’re getting their signals crossed trying to help.

Essentially, I know there was a recent article in the New York Times, I believe about immunology, and it’s just, it’s one of those subjects where the more you get into it, the less you know, and I’m not sure, like I do not profess to be extremely well versed in immunology, despite being in the field. And I know that there are people who are way more, further along in their careers than I am, who will proclaim to know even less than I do about immunology as a whole.

Charles: I mean, the body is a constant nightmare of mysteries.

Vic: Yes. We live in these flesh prisons and we just hope that they get us through the day honestly.

Charles: I mean, it’s a real roller coaster ride and I don’t enjoy roller coasters. What made you interested in immune-oncology specifically?

Vic: I never intended to end up in immune-oncology, kind of at all. I entered grad school and for the entire first year I was so set on doing DNA repair because that’s what my whole background actually was in when I started when I was in high school, I moved right after sophomore year… I moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Austin, Texas. So that meant all the UC schools were off the board, we could not afford at that out of state tuition. So I ended up UT Austin and the, uh, during my time senior year of high school, there was a professor at UT Austin who responded to my requests to shadow them for a brief like six week or maybe like six month period to learn about research.

And she offered to let me just do research in her lab. And this was a DNA repair lab. So that was my entire background. When I got to my grad school, we had our, you know, three rotations that we could pick from and all of them were DNA repair. And then none of those labs could take me as a student. So I floundered and I did a fourth rotation and a fifth rotation.

And finally, I was like, you know what? I have run out of DNA repair labs because a lot of these things labs don’t have funding. It’s unfortunate, but at our school, it’s very, very heavily focused on translational therapies, which involves a lot of immunology research and diabetes research. So finally, I end up, uh, looking at labs that have anything to do with virology. Cause that’s also something I’m very interested in. And then I ended up in this lab and I get to work with Salmonella and bacteria, which is also something I love to do. And that’s just kind of how I stumbled into immune-oncology and working my way through it.

Charles: Well, I mean, there you go. So I have an extremely side question, which is how bad is it to get Salmonella?

Vic: I can answer this because I think I’ve had it. And I have never had food poisoning in my life. I was, I was in my sophomore, junior year of college and I went out with a friend to this one restaurant. I ate there once and the next morning I, I felt so sick. I had a stomach ache. Couldn’t keep anything down. And then it was just basically in bed, sleeping, being for hours, which I never did, subsisting off of Gatorade for 48 hours. And I tried to go to work again at chemistry lab through all this. And then I waited for our, like, we had a one hour lecture prior to going into the lab and I sat down and I looked at my friends and I said, are you feeling okay after eating at that place last night? And he’s like, yeah, why? And then it’s I had gotten like a chicken wrap, he had gotten beef, and that’s when I knew that was my first mistake. And I got through about five minutes before class was going to start before I started sweating.

It was like, all right, we’re going to leave because if we don’t we are going to throw up in class and that’s not happening. So that’s probably, you know, what it’s like to get Salmonella is that it is 48 hours or 24 hours of pain and discomfort and anxiety for someone who does not like throwing up at all.

Um, and that is probably the first and only time I will get chicken at an unknown place.

Charles: I have two thoughts. One is that doesn’t sway me at all from my dedication to still eating raw dough.

Vic: All right.

Charles: I’ve just accepted the likelihood that I probably will get Salmonella at some point. And I, I trudge forward in life with that understanding. And then secondly, why is it that chickens are so associated with Salmonella?

Vic: So I think it’s specifically because, because the Salmonella bacteria is something that is able to get into tissues quite deeply. So with something like beef, uh, typically the kind of food poisoning you would get from beef is E. coli.

And that’s something that does that likes to stay on the surface. So that’s why you can get a steak, like rare or medium rare. And you assume some risks with E. coli, but it’s not going to get into the rest of the material. It’s just going to kind of stay on the surface of the cut of meat, but with Salmonella, it gets in there.

And so that’s why all these people will like cook in medium rare chicken are just asking for Salmonella because. You have to fully cook the material, uh, like chicken, or you have to have a fully cooked egg, or at least not try and eat raw eggs because Salmonella just likes to get in places and stay there and it will not be deterred unless you cook it fully.

Tessa: Well also… for context, my wife was a veterinarian in her previous career, it also is a function, somewhat, of, um, just how chickens are raised in this country.

Vic: Yeah.

Charles: Is that all chickens or just like sort of industrial level industrial, mostly?

Tessa: Like, I mean, any chicken you get can potentially carry Salmonella, but the industrial farming conditions exacerbate the odds of it being transmitted.

Vic: Cause I think with E. coli, it has to do with like cow poop and whether like that gets on the outside of the meat in some way, but then you can cook it and it’s fine. But I think…

Charles: Physiologically, like, what is the reason that Salmonella gets so deep into tissue versus E. coli sort of resting on the surface?

Vic: I can posit a guess based on why we use Salmonella to target tumors, and that’s because they’re really, really good at getting inside there. So from what I understand, the tumors themselves release a kind of signal that the Salmonella really, really likes. So it kind of hones in on that region and Salmonella can have flagella that allow them to more easily move towards the tumor.

But the other thing is that, um, they’re facultative anaerobes, so they don’t necessarily need oxygen to live and proliferate.

Charles: Could we talk about like facultative anaerobes versus different kinds of bacteria?

Vic: I think just broadly there are bacteria that need oxygen to survive and then there are bacteria that don’t, and then there bacteria that don’t need it but can use it.

So the ones that don’t are an anaerobes and then the ones that do, um, I believe they’re aerobes. There are those that can, yeah, live in oxygen and they’re fine with it, but they’re also, if they’re put in an environment where they don’t have any, they can still survive. And so that means they’re facultative anaerobes, meaning… cause they, they like oxygen. They would prefer it. But if they’re put in a situation where they have to live without oxygen, then they will be able to do so, so that’s where the facultative comes in. Facultative anaerobic let’s follow that thought the issue with tumors and this can, this gets into a whole bunch of other issues that can come up with cancer research.

In a tumor, uh, has a microenvironment. Um, this is particularly in the case of solid tumors. So I’m not really talking about like blood cancers or anything like that, I’m talking about – there is a mass inside of you made up a tumor cells and inside that environment it does not have very much, much oxygen at all, it’s called a hypoxic environments.

So, uh, that’s why Salmonella can get into there and that, because they’re facultative anaerobes and they don’t need oxygen. They can continue to live within this tumor microenvironment that doesn’t have a lot of oxygen in it. Where that gets into trouble with cancer research is that a lot of times people work with cancer cells, not in, within a specific tumor.

They’re just all cells spread out on a dish. So they don’t really get that microscopic environment. So we do all these research with cancer cells and they’re not… they’re living in oxygen cause they, they thrive that way. So we’re not always, you know, replicating the exact environment of a tumor in the exact conditions that these cells would grow in.

So that kind of affects how our research can really be translated into treatments for solid tumors, because you can have some kind of drug that is really good at killing cancer cells, but then if it can’t even get into the tumor, then how is it going to do any good? And that’s where my research comes in.

Charles: The idea, basically, in what you’re talking about is sort of using a bacterium or a kind of cell for cancer drugs to hitch a ride to, and to be able to penetrate into tumors?

Vic: Kind of, yes. So. What we want to do is all of these existing cancer drugs out there, they can’t get into these tumors for the reasons that I’ve described.

There’s actually, no, I have not described the full reasons. There’s an issue with like, you know, lack of oxygen within the tumor, but it’s also like, these are solid. They are dense little shits. So basically we’ve got these tumors that have, so they’ve got a bunch of fibrous crap. That is making them so dense and it’s consists of hyaluronic acid predominantly and then collagen.

So we’ve got all, all these little collagen and hyaluronic acid. All these little fibers is there that are forming this super, super dense network. And so. That network makes up the tumor micro environment, along with all of the other potential immune subsets that are around and they not only do they physically prevent drugs from getting in based on the fact that a drug can’t penetrate through acollagen fiber. Then they also restrict all of the blood vessels that intersect through a tumor because they’ve increased the pressure so much. So now all of these drugs that are trying to get through the bloodstream also can’t get into the tumor. So we’ve got all, just all of these, these factors that are either caused or exacerbated by the fact that there’s all of this solid crap inside a tumor.

There’s not, they’re not the tumor cells, the, just all of the stuff, connecting the cells together rather than, you know, make an entirely new drug that’s just really good at getting into these solid tumors. Why don’t we just make it so that the existing one that already have the extensive FDA approval?

Why don’t we just make it so that they can get in? So Salmonella, as I mentioned is really good at getting in, despite this increase, like all of this pressure and all of these collagen fibers everywhere, and the lack of lack of blood vessel access, all that we engineered the Salmonella so that they can get in, but they’re also expressing an enzyme.

And what they’re expressing is hyleraunidase which degrades hyaluronic acid or collagenase that degrades collagen. So it gets in there and, uh, we abused this whole like inducible system so that it’s not going to degrade anything until we know it’s in the tumor. We add the, the substrate that allows it to start expressing the protein.

Um, and all of a sudden it just starts tearing up this collagen within the tumor. And then that reduces the pressure. Um, so it allows the, you know, the blood vessels to not be restricted as much so that drugs could probably get in. And then it also, you know, uh, it degrades all of the physical barriers that are preventing other molecules from getting in.

So now this tumor is just a little bit more open. And it’s more permeable to the drugs that are already out there and just could be drugs that could be antibody therapy, all of these things that just typically they should work, but they just can’t get in through this solid dense crap.

Charles: I want to go back to something that you said, which is that you can control that, when the Salmonella expresses the enzymes that really break things down. How do you do that?

Vic: So we, uh, I don’t specifically engineer these Salmonella and I think we might outsource them to, like, I think we, uh, my PI and our postdoc, cause I think there were involved with the design of this, but we don’t, you know, stick them together.

We get it. I think we get a company that for us, but essentially is we took this operon system, which has to do, you know, genetic end, in genetics the operon is like a stretch of certain genes that have a promoter and, and they have the genes and the genes are controlled by this promoter meaning they’re not going to get expressed unless the promoter is activated.

So we have this inducible system, meaning that, unless we introduce this very specific substrate, that promoter is not going to turn on and that those proteins are not going to get the genes, are not going to be expressed into proteins. So specifically the substrate that we use is called ella rabinose.

So it’s the sugar that we can put in, uh, just inject into our system, which unfortunately is a mouse. And then, uh, once it kind of goes systemically into system, uh, then it triggers this promoter to be like, okay, cool. I’ve got what I need. I can start making things now. And then it allows the expression of the genes, which are for these collagenase or hyeralaunidase enzymes.

Tessa: So when you’re talking about using Salmonella, it’s more of a drug delivery mechanism than a method of attracting the attention of immune cells? Cause you know, the seminar aren’t necessarily out there saying, Hey, look at us we’re pathogens, you should totally destroy this tumor.

Vic: Yes and no, because they’re kind of two projects that I’m working on. Both of them that for both of my research, cause like my research is focusing on just making these Salmonella based agents to allow for better efficacy of immunotherapy. So the first one, my first part of this whole project was the whole thing with using the Salmonella to directly degrade stuff within the tumor.

But then the second part is then, you know, also making Salmonella that express certain chemo kinds or cytokines, that things that like attract immune cells and kind of signal to immune cells. And so we’ve also are going to be putting those into tumors so that they attract the immune cells to get to the tumor.

Tessa: Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay.

Charles: How far towards application and actual cancer treatments or these kinds of strategies?

Vic: Uh, the thing that I’ve talked about with the recruiting immune cells, those bio beacons… they’ve technically been done before, but they haven’t it’s, that’s all been very preliminary. So the previous work that’s been done in that field, they have these bio beacons that they’ve made, but they weren’t… like they basically got to the point where they made. And when you look at the data, it looks like they weren’t actually predicted the cytokines. Weren’t actually predicted to be expressed. So they might, they might not work. And with our work, we haven’t gotten to the point of like fully implementing them in our mice yet we’re, we’re working on it.

And I’m going to be a little bit vague about that, but that, um, to my knowledge, that part of the field has not really been fully explored to be applied to translational research yet. But with, uh, in terms of degrading parts of the tumor – that has been done and has surely gotten very, very close to being implemented as an actual treatment.

So the problem. With that though, is that there have been a couple of treatments that have just focused on one of those two enzymes that I’ve talked about. So there were a couple that mostly focused on hyaluronic acid, and then there were a couple that mostly focused on collagen and just degrading one or the other problem is that those, you know, parts of the solid tumor, are kind of also everywhere else in your body. It became a really big problem when they tried to degrade it and then cause all of these horrible side effects in these poor people.

Charles: Could you describe what hyaluronic acid is – like, what it does in the body? Because I think collagen is probably fairly familiar as connective tissue, but I don’t know that hyaluronic acid has the same level of broad familiarity.

Vic: As far as I know, it’s just, you know, another part of what makes up the body’s extra cellular matrix, so the stuff outside of cells that kind of connects it in this little network.

Charles: Well it’s Interesting, because I think probably a lot of people’s sort of intuitive understanding of the body is that everything is cells. But then that’s not. I mean, as we’ve literally just learned, that’s not accurate

Vic: Yeah. It’s really easy to just think like, Oh, everything, it’s just cells.

And then in the cells are DNA and that’s how the body works. Cause that’s, you know, that’s kind of what they teach you back in sixth grade and you just think, Oh, everything is so simple. And I understand everything about biology now

Charles: I’m 12. I know everything.

Vic: Exactly. And then, you know, you start getting into those higher level of classes and you start getting further and further down the rabbit hole of these very, very specific subjects. And you just come to the conclusion that, you know, nothing. And no one knows anything and everything is a mystery. And that’s why we still do research.

Charles: Well, I imagine the reality of everything being a constant and ever deepening mystery is especially frustrating in medical research where you’re actually aiming to apply what you’re learning to treatment of people.

Whereas like in history and philosophy of biological taxonomy. I think it’s important. I think it’s a valuable way to spend time, but at the end of the day, if I’m like wrong about whether paraphylies deserve status and classification, nobody gets hurt except for maybe the people who are the primary engineers behind the PhyloCode.

Vic: Yeah, definitely concerning to do medical research, especially when, you know, I work at a cancer hospital, so we’ve got people’s lives on the line there, and they’re talking about translational research and I’m just like, Oh God, I I’m really glad that we have so many steps before we actually put this in a patient because I don’t think I could live with myself if they died because of me.

Charles: Tessa, I think this is one of our, we’re very disciplinarily different, but this is probably one area of like, Shaking hands meme between you and me, where ultimately our research is like, it’s good, but has relatively limited real life practicality,

Tessa: Certainly in terms of that. And also at the same time, you know, no one’s life is at risk, which does make let’s threat levels a little bit easier to deal with.

Charles: Yeah, I literally… I mean, I went into entomology because insects are the greatest animals in the world and the only reason we all keep getting up in the morning and going on with our lives. But also because I can’t hurt an insect’s feelings as far as we know, whereas any research that deals with people either medically or sociologically is so fraught all the time because humans are both physically and culturally… extraordinarily complex.

Vic: Yeah. That’s definitely something that is, I guess, not necessarily concerning to me in terms of medical research, but it’s something that I constantly have to think about is not just, you know, can we treat this thing in this person’s body? It’s, Hey, there’s a person that has this thing in their body and you still got to respect them as a person and they’ve got rights and there are ethics involved.

And there’s so much that I think that some research, when some researchers can lose sight of that, which is, you know, why like, I, I actually hesitated if this lab that I joined because we work with mice. And, uh, I always try and be so gentle with them and careful with them because like, they are also things with, I think, feelings.

I’m pretty sure they have feelings and like it’s, if you start treating everything like you’re working in a vacuum and you’re just accomplishing an experiment to produce a result then, and you lose sight of the fact that. You are injecting something into an animal that has feelings than I that’s where I think research can start to not necessarily go wrong, but I think other priorities have to have to be established.

Charles: Everything is so difficult all the time,

Vic: All the time.

Charles: Well, as a segue from that, in what ways do you think being trans has sort of influenced your experience of science and of research?

Vic: Oh, this is a great question. It is something I think about as, as we just said all the time, but really, you know, starting as someone who wanted to get into science from like the, basically the minute they had consciousness, you know, I started doing science from a young age and I always thought that scientists were objective.

And that’s what we’re trying to do is, there’s a problem. We’re trying to figure out all the ways that we can solve it. And that really they know what they’re doing and they have humanity’s best interests at heart. And then I got into science and then I was like, Oh no. Oh, this is not good. There are many people who do not know how to do ethics and do not know anything about treating people like people.

I could go on and on about the ways in which science has mistreated people. But one thing I can, one, one anecdote I can share about how something where my position dramatically changed is when I was an undergrad, I was identifying as a lesbian and I was desperate for some kind of scientific explanation for why people, um, may be gay or just at least not straight in any way.

I was desperate for this. I would read papers and papers on the epigenetics potentially of being gay and all of these other things. And, you know, just a couple weeks ago, I think, you know, a paper came out. I mean, it was, it was a gross paper, but basically a paper came out about like, you know, newsflash, bisexual men or bisexual.

Charles: Oh, we have talked about this.

Tessa: We discussed that. Yeah.

Vic: So there was that. And then there was another thing about, I think maybe a year or so ago about a potential genetic basis for being gay, or it was like a whole bunch of like potential genetic components that may indicate that a person will end up eating gay or one of those things.

And it just occurred to me that like, you know, science, science does have an agenda, you know, it, it, it does. And it’s. It’s formed by the people who are in power, the people who can fund this kind of research. And if they want to fund something that may ultimately harm a group of people, they’ll still do it because they have the money to do so.

And that’s what they want to do. So it didn’t really occur to me until, you know, I started getting way more involved in, uh, at least science, Twitter, or at least like being more involved in the LGBTQ community, that I realized that not all science like should be done, like the whole thing about trying to figure out a genetic basis for being gay… that is kind of, you know, paving the way for, you know, getting rid of that trait. It’s possible. There’s a whole issue of gene therapy in that regard. And it’s. In some ways it could be, you know, a little bit of fear mongering, but at the same time, these are real concerns that the LGBT community has to deal with.

So, yeah.

Charles: Well, and it’s also just the question of why are we so desperate to identify a cause for something

Vic: Exactly. It’s like, are you, are you trying to figure it out so you can get rid of it so you can eliminate that or, you know, it it’s, it can’t really come down to just being curious about it.

Charles: Yeah, well it’s cause I, I really resonate with this because earlier in my life, I like wanted to be an entomologist as a kid, and then I cycled through a bunch of other kinds of biologists that I wanted to be and then I ended up back at entomologist. It’s the great love story of our age. And so, and so for a period of time, I wanted to go into like cognitive science, neuroscience, and I was very interested in sort of the underlying physiology of non-straight, non-cis identities.

And I think a lot of it for me also was the desire to be able to better understand myself. And it was, it was a really weird and sort of disorienting experience to realize that other people were interested in the same questions, but towards totally different ends than me.

Vic: Yeah. That is definitely something because I… that’s exactly what I thought when I was really looking into all of the potential genetic basis of being not straight, not cis, because I was like, maybe I will understand something about myself and maybe like, I will, I don’t know, be more at peace with it. Cause at the time I was in Texas with conservative parents, so you know how it goes, but yeah, but it’s, it’s so different to have people, not a part of that community, be so invested in figuring out that underlying reason. Cause it just comes from such a different angle that, you know, it gets almost unsettling, at least for me.

Tessa: I agree, yeah.

Vic: Cause when I started identifying as trans, or I guess when I came to the realization that I was trans, and I started thinking about all the ways in which I pursue transition and the ways in which all of this gatekeeping is set up and like the ways in which our bodies are policed, that, that I think for me, really pushed me towards being skeptical and suspicious of this kind of research because I didn’t know to what end, like what, what means they were trying to, uh, yeah. I didn’t know what their purpose was for doing this research, but it didn’t seem like it was good.

Charles: I mean, beautifully said really, I think. So… I would say we’ve gone through your research, we’ve gone through all of that. Is there any, do you have any sort of final science thoughts that you’d like to get on the record?

Vic: Yes. This is going to have to do with, you know, diversity, equity and inclusion – basically all grad schools: you need to stop recruiting people from underrepresented minority populations if you’re not going to support them when they get there, because it’s just setting them up for a bad time.

Coming as someone who is, I was the first trans person at my grad school and they were not prepared for me. And they just kind of used me as like, Ooh, look, we got a trans person. We have a single Tran. Great. You haven’t made this easy for me though.

Charles: Yeah, well, yeah. So I would say just a, this is something that I’m thinking of adding to all of our guests episodes now, um, I have not run this by Tessa, but it’s not like… you know, just asking if you want to weigh in, on recurring questions of the pod slash uh, previous topics specifically, we’ll, we’re releasing b-b-b-bonus episode next Tuesday that Tessa and I actually recorded like a month and a half ago where we talk, we started talking about a deep space, nine episode, but then we got we’ve you’re way off course into talking about immortality and like metaphysics of consciousness. And so basically, where would you, you land on the question of, like, let’s say you’re dying first off. Are you at all interested in any form of immortality?

Vic: No. I don’t think I need to be with this brain for any longer than I’m supposed to be.

Charles: Fair enough. So then the next question is you are dying. You’re in the future. You’ve had a very prolonged life. You’re like a hundred years from now, and you have the option of putting your physical brain and like a robot body, or sort of uploading your consciousness from your brain and then letting your physical body die.

Vic: Huh.

Charles: Which one do you think you would choose?

Vic: So I feel like if I were to give my physical brain to a robot. The name is escaping me at the moment, but I’m just thinking of Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy and that super sad robot…  

Tessa: Marvin.

Charles: Marvin.

Vic: Marvin. Okay. I thought it was Marvin. Yeah. That’s what would happen. So I wouldn’t wish that on any robot, but I guess if I uploaded my consciousness, then you know, maybe someone would want to interact with it and, and learn from it a little bit, not saying I have any like, particularly deep thoughts that are. You know, super useful to anyone on…

Charles: Well, at this point you’ve lived for over a hundred years. So based on the trajectory of the earth right now, you’ve seen some stuff,

you know, then I can, I can just give my experience and, you know, let it be some kind of, I guess, warning for people to, you know, do the right thing and treat people okay.

Charles: Fantastic. Yeah. I think where Tessa and I landed on this is that Tessa and her wife actually… Tessa, you just want to give your retirement plan?

Tessa: Yeah. Um, I would definitely, for the purposes of the question, I would definitely go with, um, Keeping the physical brain, because a continuity of consciousness is really important to me because otherwise I feel like it’s just making a copy of myself and that’s not really a mortality which defeats the purpose, but my wife and I’s plan a retirement plan is to somehow transfer a consciousnesses again, in a way that preserves continuity of consciousness, um, to an interstellar spacecraft and just spend the rest of eternity, exploring the galaxy.

Vic: Huh.

Charles: Yeah, because Tessa, as I put it in the previous episode, Tessa is a space freak and I am not, I would not do that, but I would, what I would really love to do is have a variety of non-humanoid and one humanoid robot bodies, and then be able to transfer my brain between different sort of robotic vehicles.

Vic: Oh my God.

Charles: So, like, I would love to have a giant insectoid body and then like a cat body, um, and then like a humanoid body for when I just want to hang out.

Vic: All right. That’s kind of like an Animorphs kind of thing with your brain.

Charles: Yes!

That’s one of the things… cause my favorite detail and I love Animorphs, do you like Animorphs?

Vic: You know, that was another thing that I never actually read, but I would just stare at it.

Charles: Well, we gotta get you on Animorphs. So we got to get you on Star Trek, and on Animorphs, because we’re definitely going to have at least one and probably 57 Animorphs episodes. Cause I’m never going to stop doing… Tessa, do you hear me? We’re never going to stop doing this podcast.

Tessa: Okay. Gotcha. Thank you, sure.

Charles: Yes, until the day your brain gets put into an interstellar space probe, you are going to be recording this podcast with me. One thing that I loved in Animorphs was that at the end of the series, Cassie, who’s my favorite character, who is like the animal loving pacifist, he writes a book after their experiences called, like inside the animal mind, which is just about like having the unique insight of having occupied animal brains.

Vic: Huh.

Tessa: That sounds very on brand for her.

Charles: Cassie is the best. I think about this all the time, because I’m so jealous of that. Like, all I want to do is be able to morph into various insects and then, like, actually understand what it is to be an insect.

Vic: And then you’d know if they have feelings.

Charles: Well, I’m sure they have like… Cause like there is evidence that, that individual insects have personality as in like an individualized pattern of behavior and responses. So there’s probably something there, but insects… they’re so fundamentally unlike us that unless we could literally morph down into one of their bodies and feel what it’s like, I’m not sure that it would ever be really possible.

Vic: Hmm. That makes sense.

Charles: I mean, so Vic, if people want to find you online, where can they look?

Vic: So I have a Twitter account. Um, I’m kind of back and forth on whether I’m active or not based on, you know, the state of the world, but it would be, my handle is @dngayest.

So like DNA, but D N gay. And then, yeah, that’s kind of how that all came about. So that’s my handle. Um, I also have an Instagram, um, for that account, but I’m not very active on it. So those would be the main two places that you can follow me.

Charles: Great. Um, I am on Twitter @cockroacharles, and Tessa?

Tessa: I am on Twitter @spacermase.

Charles: Okay. Uh, and the show is on Twitter @ASABpod, Uh, we are on our website at asabpodcast.com and now we are posting on Instagram, also @ASABpod cause I figured out how to post from a desktop computer because I refuse to use Instagram as an actual app. Okay. Uh, we still don’t have a sign off. So, uh, thank you for listening and catch you on the flip side.

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