Mendel's Garden #8: Harvest Edition

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Sandra Porter

Welcome to the October 15, 2006 edition of Mendel's Garden. Join me as we walk through the fields and admire the harvest.

Evolutionary genetics
i-19913c679fe20f39a91f541d41225319-pumpkin_smile1.jpgAs we stroll into the evolutionary biology plot, we notice a shape in the ground that looks suspiciously like a footprint. Who walked this path before? Where did they come from? Today, we have some interesting tools for learning about ancient peoples and satisfying our curiosity about the paths they trod. Or do we? Inspector RPM, from Evolgen, turns his magnifying glass on those methods and asks if they really tell us what we want to know. Take a look at Is the Y Chromosome as Flawed as mtDNA for Studying Demographic History?

Dan Rhoads, at Migrations, considers the anatomy of a gene in Origins of Gene Structure. Eucaryotic genes are a lot like magazines, with small bits of information broken up by pages of other information (introns, in the case of genes, ads in the case of 'zines). Which mechanisms of genetic change were the most important in determining gene structure, natural selection or genetic drift and mutation pressure? Dan presents a comprehensive review of another review by Micheal Lynch and shares some interesting thoughts on the subject.

Developmental biology
i-3c3e7c917673be22a51d3a29809a7362-kale.jpgThis kale is kind of spiky, like a hedgehog. One of my favorite genes is Sonic hedgehog. Named after a character in a video game, Sonic hedgehog is a favorite in developmental biology. Learn more about Sonic hedgehog and what it does in My Research on the Sonic Hedgehog Gene Mutation in Zebrafish by Kim Russo in Think Bomb.

Jeremy Bruno, at the Voltage Gate, is interested in some of the earliest stages of development. In Flipping the Aging Switch, Jeremy writes about Ink4a, a gene that turns off replication in stem cells. He wonders if we could turn on this gene and turn off aging. I wonder if we couldn't turn this gene off and make cancer cells stop dividing. Too little is known, but it's an interesting thought.

The New Age Garden
i-c3f3d9305d7e6682c961cd6ae0733eed-pine.jpgThe New Age Garden is always entertaining. Smells of spice and fennel overwhelm the senses. Little alters appear at random spots, decorated with bells and feathers to appease the garden spirits. New Age gardener, Deepak Chopra has shared some unusual observations on genetics. Hsien Hsien Lei, however, from Genetics and Health, finds them just a little too new age in Deepak Chopra is not a geneticist. (He just plays one on audio CD).

i-199a0a78ebacc1601592e8cacafd811e-dewoody-voleLO.jpgBut what's this? A mouse? What kind of strange mouse is this?
It's not a mouse at all. This picture, from J. Andrew DeWoody, shows a vole. In Rodent's bizarre traits deepen mystery of genetics, evolution, writer Douglas Main takes on the challenge of the genetically mysterious vole. Voles evolve unusually fast and have quite variable numbers of chromosomes, ranging from 17-64. Female voles even have large portions of the Y chromosome. To humans, even voles of different species all look alike, but the voles can tell each other apart.

The vole is not the only mysterious rodent to run through our garden. Chris Cotsapas, from Fourth Floor Studio, tells us about a completely new species of mouse in Mus cypriacus and four reasons you should care. Hmmm, maybe it's time to get new traps. My cats are sleeping on the job.

Garden Tools
Before we leave, lets have a look in the tool shed and make sure that there aren't any other new species of mice. Wow! There's a Cow chip! Actually, it's a Gene Chip for Cows. This should make future state fairs a bit more interesting.

Oh, and there's one of our favorite garden chemicals, ethidium bromide, at least it has been a favorite when in studying genetics. I've used quite a bit of ethidium bromide myself, and listened to many a debate on whether it was safer to add it to the buffer, stain the gel afterwards, or just add a bit of ethidium bromide it to the agarose. Then, of course we have the controversy over microwaving agarose that contains ethidium bromide and whether it's volatile. Never mind that we probably shouldn't be using the lab microwave to heat up our coffee, anyway. Rosie Redfield from RRResearch brings a levelheaded perspective to the debate, in Heresy about Ethidium Bromide. We should see what the chemists say, too. From one of my favorite blogs, Molecule of the Day, we have more opinions on Ethidium (Glowing DNA) and a very nice picture of a gel.

That concludes this edition of Mendel's Garden. Submit your blog article to the next edition
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