We Love Sea Urchins

This week, everyone presented their chalk talks about their projects. It was fun and interesting to see what everyone was working on! I liked that a lot of the same areas of interest and methods (e.g. epigenetics, use of gRNA, mice etc.) could be seen across projects. But even then, there were still key differences among projects and I could clearly see the contributions they would make to science.

With that being said, I was particularly interested in Michael’s chalk talk titled “To Transfate or not to Transfate: Recognition of Skeletal Cell Presence”, specifically in sea urchins. My lab and I would always walk past the sea urchin lab and think about how cool it would be to work with them, so I was excited when Michael started to present.

Michael’s project looks at PMCs (primary mesenchyme cells) in sea urchins, which become the skeleton of  the sea urchin later in development. However, a previous study found that the skeleton still forms without PMCs because of NSMs (non-skeletogenic mesoderm). This led Michael’s project to focus on how the sea urchin embryo knows that the PMCs are missing and what signals are given after this is determined. He will determine the PMC genes, clone these genes through PCR, and look at them using in situ hybridization (ISH). He will also determine the signaling molecules through ISH as well as using drug treatments. Michael’s project is important to science because his project results are important for just general knowledge about the skeletal system, and could potentially be used to help skeletal diseases in humans in the future.

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