Claire is SEA(u)RCHIN’ for the Answers!

When I think of wet labs, I think of researchers working with fruit flies or mice. I assumed that my fellow wet lab BSURFers worked with either drosphelia or mice like me. So when we had the opportunity to listen to each other’s chalk talks this week, I was stunned by Claire’s presentation and her research with sea urchins!

I was amazed by the further impacts of her project with sea urchins on humans. I would not have thought that we, as humans, had significant similarities to sea urchins. However, both humans and sea urchins are deuterostomes and have a transcription factor called brachyury: the focus of Claire’s research at the McClay Lab this summer. 

A key feature of deuterostomes is their sequence of embryo development; the first feature to develop is the blastopore.  The embryo turns inwards, or envaginates, to create a cavity known as the blastopore. The blastopore continues to stretch to the other side of the embryo that is also envaginating into a cavity known as the mouth. This process, called gastrulation, forms a gastrointestinal tract, and the McClay Lab believes that brachyury may play a crucial role in this stage of embryo development. Claire is studying what this specific protein controls by the interactions between the brachyury protein and other known genes that are associated with mouth and blastopore formation. By studying the mechanisms of sea urchin embryo development, the McClay Lab will potentially gain a better insight into human development! 

I never knew that research on sea urchins could lead to a deeper understanding in humans, but Claire’s chalk talk enlightened me. In fact, I truly enjoyed listening to all my peers’ research this week because I know the amount of work each and every one of us put into our projects; to know that we all stayed up late on the weekends to practice our chalk talks and to further simplify our research so others could understand makes me smile. I know everyone worked hard this week to create something wonderful to present in front of each other, and I am really glad that I have gotten to know everyone better over the past few weeks. I can’t wait for more memories and bonding moments with BSURF!

Some BSURFers exploring downtown Durham!

Claire and her practice chalk talk!


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