The Different Faces of Science

This week, I heard about the amazing research that my fellow BSURFers are conducting while listening to their riveting chalk talks. I learned about neurobiology, plant biology and all the different topics in between. Though all of the presentations were phenomenal, the one that stood out to me was Michelle’s talk. Her project this summer is on knocking out the gene Endo16 in Sea Urchins and whether or not that would affect gut development.

Endo16 is a gene in sea urchins that is fundamental in gut development. Her question is whether knocking out Endo16 will result in reduced gut development in sea urchins. To do this, she will design guide RNAs and inject them along with the Cas9 complex into sea urchin embryos with the goal of causing an indel in that particular gene. With a large deletion or insertion, a frameshift mutation may occur, causing a premature stop codon, and rendering the gene useless thus “knocking it out”. She will then monitor the embryos with a knocked out Endo16 gene to determine if gut development is able to carry on as it normally would or if the lack of the gene prevents the formation of a gut. Determining the function of this gene will aid in understanding how embryonic development works in sea urchins and could lead to information about its interactions with other genes. Her project will expand the Genomic Regulatory Network and she can continue to test other genes with unknown functions.

I enjoyed Michelle’s presentation because I saw the way it related to my own research project. The use of a CRISPR-Cas9 system to knockout a gene and test its function is a real-life application for the technique I am studying. While using CRISPR for medical treatment is what my lab focuses on, hearing about the many other ways it can be used for research makes me appreciate my project even more. I loved hearing about the different methods and aims for her project because I understood everything she discussed. I’ve had to design my own guides and I can relate to the various steps in her procedures. I am amazed by the various ways this genomic tool can be used, as determining the function of a gene is important for understanding its part in genetic diseases. By doing a gene knockout and finding its function, we grow one step closer to unraveling the mysteries of biology.

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