The Next Generation?

February 28, 2011

Not Star Trek.  What we’re talking about here is DNA sequencing, and the impact it is having, and will have, on studies of polyadenylation.

Since last summer, there has been a spate of papers describing the application of so-called Next Generation DNA sequencing (in its many manifestations) to the matter of polyadenylation.  The general idea is simple – to generate and analyze large numbers of short DNA tags that are derived from the junctions of the poly(A) tail and bodies of mRNAs.  The expected outcomes of such studies are qualitative and quantitative descriptions of the genome-wide distributions of polyadenylation sites.  This information would help to better annotate (or describe) the genome, and to help identify unusual occurrences.  The latter might include alternative poly(A) sites, sites associated with as-yet unidentified transcripts, and sites that define antisense RNAs.

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Where did January go?

February 13, 2011

A good question.  I never realized how much work it could be getting a child packed and prepared for five+ months on another continent.

In any case, visit Amy’s “journal” and follow her semester studying in The Gambia.  (I’ve been really jealous of all the photos and stories of her time on the beach, what with the snowy and cold winter we’ve been having in KY.)

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Darwin Lecture 2011

February 12, 2011

This year’s Darwin Week festivities in the Lexington area featured a talk by Jack Horner.  It was part science and part entertainment, very well attended.  (The organizers must have remembered Horner’s last visit to Lexington,  when the room he spoke in was overflowing, and probably as many people were outside as in the hall.  This time, the main hall of the Singletary Center was used, and it was pretty full.)

The talk itself had its highlights and low points.  I found Horner’s discussion of his “dissection” of fossilized dinosaur bones to be riveting, and I think his mock “extinction” of dinosaur species (actually, the revision of the fossil record so as to recognize that many supposed species are probably just juvenile versions of the same species) was presented in a clever and accessible fashion.

The stuff about the “chickenosuarus”?  Not so much.  I’m not sure about the idea of telling a generation of elementary and middle schoolers (a large and rapt part of the audience) that we’re going to be able to modify chickens so that they will have dinosaur-like tails, “hands”, and teeth, all in about 5 years or so.  I couldn’t tell if he really believed this or not – he’s a pretty good showman and has a knack for drawing the younger members of the audience into the subject.  But if he does, well, um, no.  (To paraphrase what I suspect would be my daughters’ reaction.)

I’ll admit that this talk was a bit more special for me, since it gave me an excuse to spend some time with my older daughter, Heather.  She’s back in the area, and was able to get back to Lexington to attend the talk (and actually be an usher for the event).  A nice dinner at Banana Leaf and some back-and-forth about the subjects (Heather giving me some inside scoop from the perspective of an MSU grad student, and me panning the chickenosaurus schtick) made for a fun time.