Sorry for the Inconvenience

Life, the Universe, Everything

Short update

I’m terrible at keeping this thing updated, I’m aware, but to be honest, not that much has happened recently.

I finally finished up my 1st rotation on micro-RNA’s. It went pretty well in terms of getting to know the lab and the environment, but my experiments weren’t particularly successful. Then again, the point of lab rotations really doesn’t seem to be getting stuff accomplished. I was supposed to start my next rotation today, but space isn’t going to open up until next week, so instead I’ll just give a brief explanation of what I’ll be studying: Toll-like receptors (TLR’s).

TLR’s are proteins on the surface of the cell that detect bad-guys and tell the immune system to react. These are different than the receptors on B-cells and T-cells, which can be randomly generated to recognize almost any molecular pattern (so when the flu and cold viruses mutate ever year, you can make a new response to them). Instead, TLR’s are hard-wired by evolution to detect things that the pathogens have a hard time changing, and are present on almost every cell type. That way, if you get infected by a bug that you’re B- and T-cells have never seen before, the TLR’s can still tell the rest of the boddy, “Hey, something’s not right here,” and mount up a preliminary response to give the B- and T-cells time to get in the act.

My project will be to work on the evolution of these receptors. The first one was discovered in fruit flies (and is simply called “Toll”), where it is important in the response to fungal infections. The immune system of insects is dramatically different from that of vertebrates, but nevertheless, the original Toll gene was clearly duplicated and mutated to recognize a variety of different signals (humans have at least 10, mice have 13). I don’t have details yet about what exactly I’ll be studying about the evolution of these TLR’s, but I’ll let you know when I do.

Beyond that, not much to report. Classes are going fine but there’s a lot of reading to get done. I’ve also been climbing a bunch (I knocked out my first 5.10b today). Hopefully when the weather gets warmer I’ll be up for some out-door stuff. Keep checking back, I’m really going to try to keep this current.

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2 March, 2009 Posted by | Personal, Science | , , | Leave a comment