Posts Tagged ‘Greek Myths’

Cheap date, grim reaper and swiss cheese – the world’s coolest gene names

// December 3rd, 2009 // 2 Comments » // Jibber Jabber, Just for Fun, Sex and Reproduction

0507-hello_my_name_is1

I studied biochemistry at University, and I remember spending hours copying pathways, reading and rereading textbooks, then summarising, checking, drawing, testing, making mnemonics, in short EVERYTHING I could do to help me memorise things. There is a lot to remember in biochemistry, and a lot of words which don’t mean much that have to go in the right place. JAK activates JEK activates MEK which activates an enzyme which travels to the nucleus and binds to blah which attaches to blah region of the DNA and has the effect of increasing glucose absorption. Or something. Frankly I can’t remember anymore, and I’m damn glad I don’t have to try.

Meaningless acronyms are an annoying part of science, and of any job really. At work I talk about getting a tvc cadded, matching the key to the clapper and ingesting it – to anyone who hasn’t done TV advertising this is complete jibberish. Biochemistry is really no different – if you don’t know much about it, it’s because no one has explained it to you properly using normal words.

This post is not about normal words. Screw normal words! This is about the awesome, the spectacular, the creative and the downright weird.

These are some of the coolest names I have come across for proteins and genes, and a lot of them are found in the fruit fly Drosophila. Drosophila is the white lab rat of developmental science, it’s always the guinea pig because it reproduces REALLY fast, and creates multiple offspring in a single frenzy. Some other species (including humans) also get a mention in this list.

Tinman – Drosophila with a mutation to tinman develop with no heart.
Maggie – a mutation causes arrested development, in the Simpsons Maggie never ages.
Cheap Date – mutation causes Drosophila to be extra sensitive to alcohol. Another gene called Lush does the same thing.
Cleopatra – Cleopatra was killed by an asp, and interaction of mutant Cleopatra protein with the Asp protein is lethal.
Ken and Barbie – mutants (both male and female) lack external genitals.
Swiss Cheese – mutants have holes in their brain.
Grim Reaper – two separate genes, together they cause cell death.

For those biblically minded of us, there is Lot – mutants have more salt than usual, or Sarah – mutants are almost sterile, or Methuselah – mutants live extra long. Prefer Greek Myths? How about Ariadne, who showed Theseus how to get through the Minotaurs Labyrinth – in Drosophila, Ariadne mutants stop the axons of nerve cells finding their targets. Love Shakespeare (who doesn’t?), take Hamlet – which affects development of cells descended from IIB cells – “to be or not to be.”

Sometimes the names help us remember how things link together, take these names from Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant that’s like the Drosophila of plant genetics. Superman mutants have extra stamens in their flowers, while the Clark Kent is a milder version of the mutation, and Kryptonite suppresses the function of Superman.

Zebrafish have some neat ones too – including one-eyed pinhead, cyclops and squint – all important in the development of an embryo.

How about in humans? Well yesterday I talked about a spiky little protein called Sonic Hedgehog, which was originally found in, you guessed it, Drosophila, but which plays an important role in embryo development in humans. There’s not a huge number of genes with cool names in humans, and there’s a good reason for that. Imagine you had a child who was very sick and you met with the doctor, who looked at you seriously and said “I’m sorry, it’s genetic. Your son has a mutation in the Sonic Hedgehog gene.” There are a couple of others, like Tigger which is a segment of DNA which hops around into different locations

Those are my faves, but there’s plenty more out there. These are samples from My Favourite Gene Names and Gene Names by Organism, and I know there’s others that didn’t make the list. FlyNome has a searchable database of heaps of Drosophila genes and the story behind them. It’s almost worth getting into Drosophila research just for the cool names, plus imagine if you found a new gene and got to name it yourself… oh the possibilities…

Cyclists who can’t get it Down

// July 24th, 2009 // 2 Comments » // How Things Work, Sex and Reproduction, The Realm of Bizzare

Hats and eyepatches off to Sci of Neurotopia for writing the funniest post I have read this year. I’m still shaking in my boots with laughter!

The post is about Priapism. What is it? Well, it’s a sustained erection, and when I say sustained I mean SUSTAINED – like a month of sustained! It is caused by a blunt force trauma in the delicate nether regions of a gentleman’s anatomy and, upon rare occasion, by cycling. I myself have tried cycling but, being of the fairer sex, happily experienced no such trauma – didn’t enjoy it much though, it ain’t exactly comfy is it?

One of the best things about the post are the pics, and you’ll HAVE to click through to see them! Srsly, CLICK HERE! They’re fantastic! For those lazier people, I’ll just nab a quote from her about Priapus, the Greek God for whom the disease is named (I love Greek myths!)

Here begins the quote:

Priapism is the clinical name for a sustained erection lasting more than four hours. It is named after the god Priapus, who I’ve mentioned before, and who was the Roman god protecting male genitalia (duh), livestock, and fruit plants. The permanent erection was apparently a tribute to his lustful nature (and something for poor human men to feel really inadequate about), and due to a curse put upon him while in Aphrodite’s womb because of something Paris had done to Hera. Because Roman gods are NO good at extracting vengeance.

Behold! Priapus
Priapus
(He is, indeed, using a scale to help hold up his junk. From a mural in the ruins of Pompeii.)

/quote. (that’s html for end quote. Check me out with my coding! I iz a 1337 haxor to the maxor!)

See what I mean with the pictures though, how funny is that? That’s just a taste of the hilarity that awaits you at this post. It has it all, Greek myths, erections, and science. Go and read it, if ye dares!






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