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Sunday, March 13, 2005


For a while back there I did bench biology studying the genetics of flagellar assembly in the unicellular biflagellate algae, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Chlamy is a good model system for studying the eukaryotic flagellum because their flagella are essentially identical to mammalian cilia and flagella, and because they're really plants so nobody cares if you kill them as part of your study (digression, you should have seen the protests directed at the professor who studied the physiological effects of cocaine addiction in Chimpanzees. Talk about nasty). One of the other nice things about Chlamy is that they are usually haploid, but can go through a mating event exists briefly as a diploid before undergoing meiosis and yeilding 4 haploid progeny. This, for those still reading, allows for the awesome power of tetrad analysis. Which brings me to my point; in order for tetrad analysis to work you have to separate the 4 individual cells from a given meiosis so they don't get all mixed up together when they all start dividing mitotically. This is accomplished by peering through a disecting microscope at an agar plate and pushing cells around using a glass thread. Tedious is one of the first words that comes to mind. In the lab where I worked we had 4 scopes for tetrad pushing together in one room. While you do have to pay attention to what you're doing while pushing, you can easily carry on a conversation. One day I was chatting with another student about what kind of food she ate when she was a child. She, you see, was from Northern China. She told me that in her family they ate a lot of rice and vegetables. But that meat was a special occasion menu item, you had it on birthdays, etc. I compared that with the kind of Chinese food I ate during the two years I lived in Taiwan and the typical American diet I ate in the 1970s. She followed up with her own comparison of Northern Chinese cuisine with that of the rest of China and finished up with, "And we're not like the Cantonese, they'll eat anything."

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