Monday, November 26, 2007

21st century festering wounds - sextus

The results were in, the experiments were done. We had found that in Samuel Vespucci's cells, several genes were somehow lowered in their expression. And for whatever reason, all of these genes were lying in a straight row on the X Chromosome.

But which gene was to blame for this strange malady?

I could not figure it out.

I surveyed the list of genes that came up as strange on the gene chip, with no strong clues.

However, as my eyes scanned neighboring genes, the picture became clear to me. The proverbial moment of clarity is sometimes depicted as a light bulb going off, and I had had times in my life when it seemed like I had grasped the experience of a true epiphany. But that was all washed away in comparison to this moment.

For at the moment, the bulbs flashed, the scales fell from my eyes, all of these metaphorical bursts of epiphany were true at the same time.

WASP!!! WASP!!! WASP is not expressed properly in Samuel!!!

I could not stop shouting and screaming the word WASP, as my colleagues looked at me with befuddled jaws gaping.

"Come on, you don't know WASP? It even has a wikipedia entry on it. Look it up as Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome, not the insect or White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.....This is it!!!!" The gene wasn't on the list that we got from our experiment, but it was wedged right between some of the other genes that we found on the X-chromosome. It was as clear as day to me now, but not to my student.

Who could blame these poor cellular biologists, whose worlds revolved around Dictyostelium discoideum, the slime mold that spends most of its time as a single cell? Studying this molecule in such an organism is not as logical as studying the other molecules that we prefer to work on, but as far as humans go, WASP is definitely worth studying. Humans who lack this gene completely develop serious diseases, and many times this manifests itself by problems with, yes, clotting.

My graduate student and her friends from the lab next door listened to my tirade as they looked up more info on WASP, and I knew what I had to do to bring about a change. I was sure I could save Sam. I just needed to get to him in time.

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