January 2013 Archives

Week 2: Microscopy Images

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Hello all,

Throughout this last week, I spent a considerable amount of time in the lab learning how to use the Leica DMLB research microscope to examine various biological specimens. While many of the photos I took were under lower magnification, this scope's abilities really come into play under detailed 40x magnification. Additionally, images can be given more contrast and detail using a technique known as DIC imaging. Using various beams of interfering light to illuminate structures that might otherwise be invisible under normal bright field microscopy. When used correctly, this technique produces stunning images!

Unfortunately, there were some complications that prevented me from using this method to its full extent. While powerful, this microscope is also a sensitive instrument. An important component of the scope, called the condenser, was malfunctioning due to misuse by the time I was able to gain access to the lab. While this was a setback, I feel that I gained a greater appreciation for how the scope functions, the concepts behind DIC microscopy, and the intricate and beautiful nature of a wide variety of biological specimens.

Here are a few of the images I took while in the lab. Note: I attempted to add in a scale bar to the images using an online program, but the results were poor. Thus, I am showing these images with no scale bar, but with some visual editing for contrast, brightness levels, etc.

Cheek cells (10x Magnification).jpg

Above is a slide of some of my cheek cells, at 10x magnification.

Starfish larva (5x Magnification).jpg

Here is a slide of a species of starfish, specifically the larva. This image is at 5x magnification.

Drosophila (5x Magnification).jpg

A familiar face for geneticists and developmental biologist alike, the above image is of a common fruit fly, of the genus Drosophila. The head, mouth, and forearms are depicted here at 5x magnification.

Ancylostoma caninum (5x Magnification).jpg

Lastly, here is an image of a nematode worm, Ancylostoma caninum. Specifically, the head/mouth is depicted here. I personally enjoy this image as many intricate details of the worm's anatomy is shown. This image was taken at 5x magnification.

Week 1: Embryonic Stem Cells

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For this first entry, I decided (for a variety of reasons) that it would be appropriate to cover the basics of embryonic stem cells. Firstly, stem cell research is at the forefront of the developmental field, and has incredible applications in many areas of biology and medicine.

Secondly, I confess that while stem cells have always been a hot issue in popular science, I know very little about their applications in research. I decided to look up a few preliminary sources to orient myself to the concept of stems cells, both from a cellular and utilitarian perspective.

It was interesting to be able to tie the information I found into concepts learned in other courses. For example, much of embryology centers around gene expression and regulation. The activation or suppression of certain genes during development is in large what dictates normal progression through the developmental process. Furthermore, interruption of these normal regulatory processes can result in strange effects. However, it is the examination of these regulatory mechanisms that will lead us to further advancements to possibly eliminate many developmental defects.

Specifically, I found it interesting that so many of the same cellular signaling pathways involved in development are also found in the suppression of cancer. However, when I thought about these similarities a little more, the commonalities made perfect sense. If you understand cancer to be an over-proliferation of cells due to broken cellular regulation (among other factors), embryology is essentially the intended proliferation of cells to form the organs and tissue of a developing organism. This concept greatly intrigues me, noting that a subset of cellular mechanisms have the power to both create the beginnings of all life, as well as propagate one of the most deadly and rampant disease we know today, cancer. It is the similarities between these various facets of biology that continue to drive research and create new solutions to previously insurmountable problems.

In the coming entries of this blog, I will be discussing both weekly concepts, as well as other topics in developmental and evolutionary biology that I find interesting or novel. Additionally, I may post images from lab work on this blog. Stay tuned for more!

Lastly, I have included a link to some preliminary material on stem cells, what they are, and their various applications.


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