Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Tell me, Flies, tell me, sweet little Flies

I've had this song stuck in my head all day. Simply replace "lies" for "flies" and the song in its entirety is worryingly apt for my research. Give it a go and then I'll give you some context.

I finally managed to delete a gene using CRISPR! So I've been waiting 11 days to see what the homozygous mutants look like.

13 days later (because the food isn't so great) and...

They look absolutely fine.

Bugger. I'll have to wait a few days to see whether they are fertile and a few more until they possibly drop dead or start behaving oddly. Chances are they don't have anything wrong with them which means I'll have to start poking around a little more.

There are several options - a sensible one is to do some genetic interactions with candidate genes (that have a phenotype when mutated) obtained from an interactome I obtained. The caveat there is that it's an interactome for the human protein and not the fly one. Ideally make a mutant phenotype better/worse when adding my mutation to the mix.

Another option is to look a lot closer. Based on expression data there seems to be an enrichment in hemocytes (sort of fly macrophages) and the Central Nervous System. Given I share lab space with experts on hemocyte function and behaviour it seems like it's worth a quick look in that direction. The central nervous system I can delve into with simple things like "is there a difference in size/appearance" but I'd also probably hope to see things go wrong with the flies as they get older.

Anyway, there's a bit of work to be done yet until I find a solid lead. Now I have the mutant I may as well at least establish that it conclusively does nothing before moving on.

So yeah - no, no, no you can't disguise. Tell me Flies.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Biology on the Box

A round up of some Biology shout-outs on TV

Episode 5 of "Fortitude" name-checked PCR several times, as well as making claims like "the DNA never lies". I guess it doesn't if there's no cross-contamination. We also got to see a gilson pipette, which is always a joy. They also claimed that it takes 7 years for every atom in our body to be replaced - although a quick google suggests there's a huge variation in the time it takes for that to happen.
An earlier episode mentioned "Apex" predators too so the writer of the show clearly reads or watches popular science documentaries/journals.

Speaking of documentaries, there was a great repeat of BBC4's "rise of the continents" hosted by Ian Stewart. I missed it the first time around but it was a real gem as each episode was dedicated to a continent (Australia, Africa, Americas and Eurasia) and charted its history. There were loads of things I'd never heard of - such as cratons and Stewart is able to explain things simply without being patronising (although the director unfortunately insisted on having "sherlock"-style thought process/montages). But what does this have to do with biology, I hear you ask? Well, the neat thing about the show is that it linked continental events with evolution such as whales evolving thanks to a shallow sea that once existed in North West Africa. Or how India meeting Asia resulted in the extinction of 50% of the planet's species. There were quite a few others and it highlighted how tightly the environment affects life on the planet - something we'd do well to remember!

The last one doesn't really have anything to do with biology but the partial eclipse in the UK was fun to watch (albeit indirectly thanks to the fear mongering/are people really that stupid of staring at it). It still always strikes me as an incredible co-incidence how on a planet that contains the only known life capable of appreciating it - just happens to have a moon that is the right size/distance from the sun to cause an eclipse. The odds must be minuscule. Maybe the universe just wanted to be appreciated? So, it had nothing to do with biology but it was nice to see people being interested in science indirectly. I suspect most just wanted a selfie or get caught up in the hype but I figure most people will have at least asked what an eclipse was and maybe some of them watched the entertaining "stargazing live" show and learnt quite a bit more. Small steps :)
They had a great segment pointing out that even if astrology worked then it's a month out of date and some people are actually born in the ignored 13th zodiac sign - Ophiucus. I like it when science tries to beat mysticism with its own logic. If you want to check your star sign try it here. Turns out I'm really a Pisces which suits me far better - in fact I'm convinced Astrology is based in fact. Better check what I'm supposed to do for the rest of the weekend.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Science Songs

I have to give a lab meeting tomorrow so quick and easy song it is.

I picked this one because a scientist needs to keep their eyes wide open to spot/connect/interpret potential results. They should also be sceptical and demand to see things with their own eyes every now and then!