molecular biology

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November 18th, 2016

Early morning biochemistry setup, and thinking about lab work. Tbh when my supervisor asked if I could be at the lab at 8am my heart died a little, but I’m eternally grateful that she’s taking me under her wing. I’m eternally grateful that she’s not using me as her “dish-washer,” that she’s teaching me the nuts and bolts of a research lab, encouraging questions, and encouraging me to do my own research. She actually felt bad for asking me to grab ice for her???? We need more researchers like this because lets be real even university level labs don’t cover a fraction of the knowledge you need to work in a real lab and that’s really a shame. 

Biomedical Artist Audra Geras created this image titled “ Process of Ubiquitination Leading to Protein Degradation by 26S Human Proteasomes” to show how proteins that your cell doesn’t need anymore get broken down into smaller pieces that can be upcycled into new proteins.

Errors in this process have been linked to cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and heart disease. 

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The painter behind the molecular visualizations.

My mother’s brain is decaying;

The nuclear radiation kind of decay.

The kind of decay that emits poison,

The kind of decay that mutates the cells of everyone else around her.

My mother is going insane

And spilling gamma radiation all around her in a melted nucleic oil spill;

Alpha rays and beta rays and spliced genes and cancer cells,

Lab rats that can glow in the dark, malignant tumors, mismatched nucleotides, brain hemorrhages.

Helium-4, uranium-238, thorium-234; it’s all in the tap water now.

My mother’s liquidating brain is killing me,

My mother’s terrestrial gamma ray burst,

My mother’s cluster decay.

The RNA polymerase in her neurons unzips everything,

And glues it back together all wrong,

Forever changing changing the sequence of her once-beautiful nucleotides,

And shredding the genome–

That impossibly long and entirely incredible genome–

That, at some long-ago and watery point, I was given half of.

When will I start to decay?

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A hypothesized mechanism for the origin of life, an event called abiogenesis.  In this version, called RNA world, small molecules called nucleotides formed in the waters of the early Earth during the Hadean Eon, and polymerized on the surface of clay minerals.  These simple chains of RNA could replicate themselves in solution, but only slowly and inaccurately.  An RNA molecule developed which would fold into a structure that catalyzed RNA polymerization; a ribozyme.  The first ribozymes would replicate their sister strands, and produce copies of themselves and other RNA molecules. 

     In the same environment, long chains of carbon molecules called phospholipids were formed.  These molecules have two parts, the tail, which is hydrophobic, and the head, which is hydrophillic.  Because of these properties phospholipids will stick together and form micelles and vesicles in water.  Vesicles can absorb RNA nucleotides, concentrating them and creating a space where they can replicate, mutate and evolve.  At some point a ribozyme became enclosed within a vesicle, starting a chain reaction that evolved into the multitude of biological forms that we see today.

   Because this event occurred more than 3.8 billion years ago, theories about how and where it happened are highly speculative.  Possible environments for abiogensis include hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, hyper saline bubbles of water trapped in ice, radioactive lakes or lagoons on earths surface, and even in space or on another planet, brought to earth through a panspermia event.  We have very little molecular evidence of the first cells, but ribozymes and catalytic RNA molecules are embedded in the DNA replication machinery of all life.  Because evidence of this event has almost certainly been lost to time, the true mechanisms of the origin of life may remain a mystery to science.