Monday, 23 February 2015

With Great Power comes never having to wait for the centriguge/vortex again

The Flash TV show has many flaws when it comes to portraying super-speed (usually the fact that if his speed was always as fast as it is sometimes depicted he'd be unstoppable or the that he can apparently hear faster than the speed of sound) but there's one thing in the intro that rings true if he's a scientist - he uses his super speed to vortex (possibly centrifuge) samples by hand.

It's what I'd be doing. I'd also be using it to sort flies super fast (taking care not to smash them) and better yet homogenise those 24 wrist-destroying Fly DNA samples in a row. Although I guess with super speed the 2 minute spin time would be interminable - although I could always be setting up a massive PCR experiment in that down-time.
Basically if I had that power crime-fighting would have to wait until I had a more secure income than science.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Science Music

I may have used this one before (Every post is exactly the same) but this is another song that comes to mind in a repetitive screen.

Screened 130 of the 450 potential mutant fly lines now. Out of the 6 different deletions I've got one.  As cruel fate would have it, it's in the gene that lies within the intron of my gene of interest. So I potentially have a control mutant for my non-existent mutant of interest. I guess I can't get too pessimistic until I hit the half way mark. As it is the long weekend out of the country will provide a much needed break as there's no way I can nip into work to do "a few DNA prep/PCRS" while away.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Science Music

This song definitely sums up the last couple of weeks at work.

I guess it's the downside of screening. I'm essentially going in the morning and collecting virgin* flies from 350 crosses, crossing these flies to other stocks, having lunch and then repeating the process in the afternoon. Over and Over again.

I guess it serves me right for picking a gene on the X chromosome. This means I have to go for the "maiden" female flies as there's the possibility the mutation may be lethal which isn't so great if you're a male and only have the one X chromosome to play with . It also means that all the males from the crosses are potentially ones where the deletion hasn't occurred so there's no point in using them at all. I was planning on doing some courtesy PCR on the males in the sense that if there is a deletion I'd know it isn't lethal. I haven't really had the time though.  I'll probably wish I made the time if it turns out it is a viable mutation and I could have just picked a bunch of males from each line ONCE rather than twice a day for a week. Let's not think of that though.

Next week, I can at least change the repetition of virgin collecting (not as fun and/or sinister as it sounds) with serial fly squashing (essentially as sinister as it sounds) and PCRs.
I have another mutagenesis screen on the go too but fortunately that one isn't on the X chromosome so it will be an absolute breeze by comparison. Unless it's not.

*Just in case you think I'm some kind of kinky drosophilist I should point out that flies use internal fertilisation to reproduce (like most people do) and not externally by the female dumping a load of eggs and then the male does his manly duties over said laid eggs. For this reason, when doing crosses you need females that haven't mated with their brothers (flies are cool with Game of Thrones plotlines) or you will wind up with progeny you don't really want.
They do it doggy style in answer to your inevitable follow-up question. In terms of "how do you know they are virgins" - you can do it based on time or you can check if they have a black spot on their belly. If they have a spot they are still virgin. It's definitely a talking point at interviews if you put that one on your CV.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Tribyd Theory

I'm getting the science equivalent of nails down a chalk-board every time I hear/read the "three parent babies". Even "three person" winds me up a little bit but at least it isn't quite as emotive. I can see why the media has gone with that option as it is attention-grabbing and sort of works as a summary.

The problem is that I think it conjures up the wrong picture of it being an evenly split contribution from the three individuals and it's bait for conservative types who worry that the "traditional family unit will be destroyed" along with the laziest negative argument ever of "it isn't natural". I'll throw in my "I'm not a mitochondrial geneticist expert" disclaimer but mitochondrial DNA is a separate entity from our genomic DNA (it was probably a different organism billions of years ago), so while the DNA from Sperm and egg are shared 50:50 the mitochondrial DNA always (but not always because - nature isn't as conservative as some want to believe) comes from your mother. By the logic being applied in news headlines this means that the father is always the weaker contributor, genetically speaking. Maybe I'm not giving mitochondria it's due but I don't see them as that much different from the human microbiome (the huge number of micro-organisms that exist in our bodies). They are also largely inherited from your mother (pick them up during birth, from breast feeding and skin contact) but can also maybe pick them up from other people early in life. So you could have lots of "parents".

As for whether the technology should be used, I think a really important thing to remember is that most people aren't going to go for this type of fertility treatment unless they have a strong medical reason for doing so. It's not like Jessica Ennis is donating her mitochondria - although maybe that would make the UK more energetic? I can imagine the worst thing that could happen from this procedure is that it will screw up Mitochondrial lineage studies as the mitochondria may have come from a different person than the genomic mother.