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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Genetics: Nature or Nurture?

Genetics: Nature or Nurture?

Genetics has become a cutting-edge science, not only in the field of biology, but also because of the enormous social and medical reach of its discoveries. In this program, students will explore the environment’s role in gene expression. Are traits controlled by inherited genes or by a combination of genes and the environment? Students will experiment with Drosophila (fruit flies) a widely used model organism in real-world genetics investigations and will also practice doing or modeling genetic techniques such as DNA isolation, gene-editing, PCR, etc.  Students will also use statistical analyses to quantify research outcomes.