Saturday, 28 August 2010

Viruses vs Cancer!

A paper published in Clinical Cancer Research earlier this month describes a treatment for cancer that utilises the herpes simplex virus to selectively kill cancer cells, while leaving normal human cells intact due to deletions that make it unable to grow in them. I'm almost certain this is the same treatment I heard about in a lecturer's anecdote in first year (obviously quite a way before the study was published):

This group had developed a treatment for cancers of the head and neck, using the herpes virus. The treatment is pretty effective at shrinking tumours and making surgical removal of the remaining tumour possible. They have one patient with a tumour on his tongue, which understandably limits his diet - he probably has to be fed through a tube. So they use this treatment on him, the tumour shrinks, they operate, he's discharged. A few months later, though, he's back - with liver failure.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Error bars

 I am currently about half way though an eight week summer placement in a lab. I'm part of a small group working under one supervisor, in a larger group all doing research with a similar 'theme'. It's remarkably diverse, though. And strangely, each lab seems to have a 'trademark' technique! For example, I have done a lot of real-time PCR. Another summer student in the same building seems to do nothing but western blots. Another is doing a lot of gel-based PCR; others do a lot of tissue culture... I'm not sure if it's just the nature of a summer project, or the nature of the research done in each lab, but it amuses me. And actually, doing nothing but designing and running real-time PCR is suprisingly not that tedious, although I am excited about maybe getting to do some FISH next week (yay, glowing things!).

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Slime Moulds (also, hello)

This is something I learnt about back in first year, and I thought was pretty awesome, so, having written this up previously on a personal journal, I'm reposting it in edited form to hopefully give this new blog a good start :)

Name: Dictyostelium dicoideum

What is it?: Dictyostelium is a unicellular organism... most of the time. It lives in soil, feeding on bacteria which themselves feed on decaying leaf matter (yum). Slime moulds were formerly classed as fungi, since both reproduce by releasing spores. Unlike fungi, however, these single-cell amoebae are able to move around.

Image: Dictyostelium labelled with GFP, by Richard Firtel, University of
California,San Diego. From the website of Eduardo Kac.