Genetics: Nature or Nurture? Day 5

Genetics: Nature or Nurture? Day 5

After a week of hard work, exploration, and discovery, campers performed a protein purification process to isolate the GFP (green fluorescent protein) product from our bacterial transformation experiment. Our budding molecular biologists used the same process that is performed in the ‘real world’ (by actual molecular geneticists) to isolate a protein product (such as insulin or growth hormone) that has been mass-produced through bacterial transformation. 

Ask your camper: What part of the central dogma deals with protein production in the cell? (translation)


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Genetics: Nature or Nurture? Day 4

Genetics: Nature or Nurture? Day 4

Today the campers continued their explorations of drosophila melanogaster – the common fruit fly (a widely-used model organism in biological studies). Throughout the week, campers have studied normal fruit flies (as well as flies with various genetic mutations) in order to get familiar with handling and observing them. We’ve challenged them to become acclimated to “best practices” with data collection from these tiny, yet useful organisms. Some of our mutant flies are from a lineage of flies that has been used in actual genetics research involving epilepsy.  Our campers identified stimuli which elicit seizure-like activity in the mutant flies, to determine the longevity of the seizure and latency time (recovery time, post-seizure). They followed these studies with a fascinating experiment which tested the effect of (actual) anti-epileptic drugs on the seizure-activity of the flies.

Ask your camper: What treatment did you give your flies and how did the flies respond? (answers vary by student experiment)

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Genetics: Nature or Nurture? Day 3

Genetics: Nature or Nurture? Day 3

Who thinks they can taste PTC (a bitter compound for some, but a tasteless compound for others)?! Today we used tasting papers to determine if we could taste PTC, then analyzed the results of our gel electrophoresis (from yesterday) to see if our own DNA matches our ability to taste the chemical PTC or not. We also started a new experiment – bacterial transformation –  whereby normal E. coli cells are given a new gene – the gene for Green Fluorescent Protein (GFG).

Ask your camper: What are some actual applications of genetic transformation using bacterial cells? (allows researchers and medical professionals to add human genes to bacteria for mass production of proteins such as hormones like insulin and growth hormone)

In our other section, campers continued explorations with the mutant C. elegans worms. The “mutant” worms lack a receptor (due to their mutation) needed for their ability to detect salt in their environment – this is problematic for them because they aren’t able to recognize that a salty environment can be harmful and therefore, they don’t attempt to find a safer environment. Statistical analyses were performed using the data collected by the campers, which helped the campers determine if the behavior of the mutant worms was significantly different in each environment. Perhaps they can evaluate some normal worms later this week and do even more comparisons!

Ask your camper: Why is a salty environment bad for the mutant worms? (the salt can disrupt their water balance, or osmoregularity)


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Genetics: Nature or Nurture? Day 2

Genetics: Nature or Nurture? Day 2

After extracting our own DNA from our cheek cells yesterday, we performed a lab technique that makes thousands of copies of part of our genome (Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR) in order to have enough DNA to analyze. Today, we used special “molecular scissors” to cut the DNA copies into fragments and then separated them out using a technique called gel electrophoresis. Overnight, our gels with our separated DNA fragments will be stained, and we’ll check them out tomorrow, to identify our own genes (DNA) for a particular trait (in this case, the ability to taste a bitter chemical or not). 

Ask your camper: What electrical charge does DNA carry? (negative)

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Physiology & Biomedical Engineering Day 5

Physiology & Biomedical Engineering Day 5

An exciting finish to our wonderful week with our parent open house!! Students were able to show off all the great knowledge they have gained throughout the week through hands-on demos of their working models as well as the powerpoint presentations they put together in their groups. Students were also given the opportunity to put their surgeon skills to the test with a laparoscopic surgery simulation that required them to inspect & excise cancerous tissue.

Thank you again to everyone for a fabulous week! Have a safe & joyous rest of your summers!!


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Physiology & Biomedical Engineering Day 3

Physiology & Biomedical Engineering – Day 3

A full work day was in store for our students today as they used the bulk of their class period to continue designing & engineering their Digestion Invention project. Students were also able to conduct some of their first preliminary test runs with their projects to ensure that all the different parts of their system are well-connected and that the GI tract is leak-proof.

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Physiology & Biomedical Engineering – Day 2

Physiology & Biomedical Engineering – Day 2

Today our students delved more into understanding the physiological aspects of the digestive system by learning about the magic of enzymes and how these special proteins are able to help us chemically digest all the different foods (and sometimes non-food items) we eat. Students were also officially introduced to the Digestion Invention project they will be working on throughout the week, which (if done successfully) will have the ability to mimic the mechanical & chemical digestion capabilities of a real, in vivo digestive system.

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Physiology & Biomedical Engineering

Physiology & Biomedical Engineering: Monday

Today our students got the chance to learn about digestive system anatomy in the most hands-on way possible – (short of getting a ride on the Magic School Bus…): Fetal Pig Dissections! Students were challenged to map out all the various parts of the digestive system and make connections between how the form/structure of an organ is matched with its function. Students were also able to begin their quest to digest as many interesting facts & trivia on the digestive system as possible… (We were also sure to thank all of the pigs for the noble sacrifice in the name of science.)

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Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Thursday

Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Thursday

Today was an exciting day for the students! They were able to see how environment did influence gene expression in identical E. coli plated on different types of media. Some of the E. coli expressed the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) while others did not. Students also created experiments to test effects of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) on the flies. Tomorrow the students will be discussing and presenting what they have been researching throughout the week!

Ask your student: What is the difference between genotype and phenotype? (Genotype is based on the DNA sequence for a trait, phenotype is the expression or appearance of the trait)


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Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Wednesday

Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Wednesday

Today students began the process to transform ‘normal’ E. coli bacteria (that do not produce green fluorescent protein (GFP)) into bacteria that do produce GFP. The students constructed plasmids and created plates with different E. Coli strains, and on Thursday will identify on which trains transformation was successful.

Ask your student: What is transformation? (A lab technique is used to introduce foreign/new genetic material into an organism)