Monday, March 20, 2017

Contemplating Cancer: A 3-2-1 Analysis of the Cancer Patient Data Activity

Three Things You Learned from the Activity
  1. Different genes can cause the same cancer.  On the patients we looked at today, there was not a single gene that each person in my group all had in common.  Each of us had different genes, and yet the mutations all led to the same type of cancer.
  2. Cancer takes more than one mutation.  All of the patient cards we had had at least two genes that contributed to the cancer, some had four or even six different genes that played into it.  Even within the groups the numbers varied, yet nobody had one gene that by itself caused cancer.
  3. Certain chromosomes have more potential cancerous genes than others.  Chromosomes such as 12, 17, and 7 all contain many genes that are known to cause cancer when mutated.  This could be seen in the prevalence of mutated genes on these chromosomes between all of the groups, even those with different cancers.
Two Things That Surprised or Interested You
  1. One thing that surprised me was from the research I looked into on a gene associated with a specific type of Hepatic cancer.  The gene was a hybrid of two other genes and it was found in 100% of the cases of this cancer that they looked into.  This is wild, especially since the activity we did was stressing how different genes can cause the same cancer.
  2. Another thing that interested me was the way the different genes worked together.  Through the function column on the patient cards we got, I noticed that most (if not all) of the cards had genes with multiple functions.  At first I was confused by the lack of correlation, but then I realized that naturally, the multiple genes affecting different functions of the cell would make it much more debilitated.
One Question You Still Have
  1. After this activity, I am still a bit confused on the logistics of how these cells become mutated.  Obviously it is not something normal in your genome, otherwise all of our cells would be cancerous, and that just would not work.  This means that something mutates the genes in this cell, which seems like an epigenetic/environmental factor; however, we always talk about cancer as something that is heritable.  These things seem a little contradictory to me and I was wondering how they fit together.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Meeting Meiosis and Various Vodcasts: Weekly Reflection for the Week of March 6th to March 10th

Weekly Standards: 4.1, 4.3

How did you do on the work?
This week I felt a little more overwhelmed by work than I did last week.  This was primarily due to the fact that we had the lab write-up to work on and vodcasts on most nights, along with other projects due in other classes.  Aside from this I feel like I did a fairly good job on the work, although some of my WSQ responses were not the best they could probably have been.  I do feel, however that our classwork packets really helped to reinforce the concepts that I may not have gotten as great a feel on in the vodcast.

What do you think you understand well?
I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the outlines of the stuff we are learning.  I understand the process of mitosis and (for the most part) meiosis, and I understand how changes in the cell cycle control system can impact the cell and the organism.  These broad, basics I feel like I have gotten down, mainly because of the packets we have been working on all week along with the vodcasts.

Where do you think you could improve?
While I feel like most of the material I am getting and understanding, I feel like I could have a much better grasp on if I went a little more in depth with them.  For example, I understand what happens to the cell cycle when a tumor suppressor gene is mutated, but I don't know what causes this mutation, or how prevalent it is.  I feel like I should be paying more attention to the why's of what we are learning instead of just the what's so that I can better connect topics and remember the information more efficiently.

What strategies will you use to improve?
In order to work on my connectivity between topics I will not only pay more attention to the spoken aspect of the vodcasts, as this is the part that most often gives information on that kind of thing, but will also start to go back and revisit some of our older unit notes to keep myself fresh on the mechanisms of evolution or the materials that make up a cell wall.

How does the work we are doing fit into the context/narrative of this class?
A lot of what we are doing this week, especially in mitosis and meiosis connects to our previous unit of evolution.  Looking at the process by which new generations are made makes it much more clear how small mutations can cause lasting impacts in populations that can lead to the increased diversity of the species.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

An Alu-minating Week: Weekly Reflection for the Week of February 27th to March 3rd

Weekly Standards: 4.1, 4.3

How did you do on the work?
I feel as though I did pretty well on the work this week.  We were primarily focused on our big PCR lab, which was super cool.  We got to use several of the tools and techniques we have been learning about this week to find out our own genotype for a particular Alu insert.  My group worked really well on this lab, and made it through pretty well, with almost all of us getting solid results.  This was a particular relief after the lack of good electrophoresis results in my science fair last year!

What do you think you understand well?
I feel like I understand how most of the processes we learned about work.  I, for obvious reasons, feel most confident on the tools that I have had experience with, so gel electrophoresis, restriction enzymes, and now, PCR.  I feel like this week has helped me to connect the idea of DNA as both a physical substance and as a code, something that I already knew, but never really thought about.  The physical use of our own DNA, made it much more real.

Where do you think you could improve?
While there are some of the DNA technologies that I feel really strong on, there are a couple that I still struggle to understand. One in particular is the technique of microarrays.  I have watched the video and have talked to Mrs. Cole and India multiple times about it, but for some reason it just does not want to fit into my brain.  I also don't feel like I got the greatest of grasps on the Virus vodcast, as I did it later at night and kind of rushed through it a bit. Instead of taking my normal length of time.

What strategies will you use to improve?
To improve this week I definitely just need to take some more time with the material to let it really sink in.  I could find some more videos on microarrays, maybe something with a practical application will help me understand it better.  I also should go back through the virus vodcast to make sure I get all the information I need on that topic.

How does the work we are doing fit into the context/narrative of this class?
Genetics is a huge part of the field of biology in the present.  There are so many huge breakthroughs and overwhelming possibility in the field, so our activities in class is super relevant to what is going on in the scientific community right now.  Getting experience with different genetic tools, especially PCR is valuable not only for growing our understanding of genetics, but practically if we want to perhaps go into biology in our futures.