World’s smallest puppy and other interesting records.

31 03 2012

As I scroll through countless pages on the internet, there are rarely images or articles that simply make me stop everything and say “ Aweeee”. Today I came upon a short article that did just that. Three weeks ago California’s Grace Foundation rescued a dog that gave birth to what is now said to be the world’s smallest puppy. The 28.3 gram creature was stillborn, but was administered CPR and saved. The tiny dog is a mix of a Dachshund, a Miniature Pinscher and a Chihuahua. The puppy was named Beyonce, after her song “Survivor” and now awaits to turn 1, so that she can be considered for the Guinness World Records. I imagine that having such a small size will make the puppy’s life more dangerous, because she will be harder to spot and probably has a weaker body. But with the right care and treatment, she can become a true dog celebrity.


After reading this article and “awing” I decided to check out some other cool Guinness World Records. Here are some that I found interesting:

  • Loudest Purr by a Domestic Cat: The purr was measured at 86.3+ decibils from one meter away, which is similar to the sound of city traffic from inside a car. Though it may not be super loud, if my cat purred that loud, I know she would be spending a lot less time in my room and more in my backyard.
  • Most Big Macs consumed: A USA citizen has consumed 23 000 Big Macs over the last 37 years. It may sound cool but that must be extremely unhealthy. To be honest I am surprised he is still not hospitalized.

In general many of the records I saw were pretty random and not that interesting, but there is always an exception when you see something and have an unexpected reaction. One day it would be nice to see a record like “most scientific discoveries made by one scientist” or “most patients cured by one doctor”….and who knows, maybe the person will be me (one can always hope ).


Visit to UBC School of Dentistry

21 03 2012

As someone who one might call a keener and a “living in the future” type person, I tend to always plan ahead and want to see what things will be like in the future. Today I had a chance to look into what my future might (hopefully *will* but you never know) look like. Catherine our FSL leader, has kindly let Megan ( a fellow FSL student) and I, accompany her to one of her UBC classes. Both of us were really excited and did not really know what to expect and I was hoping if this experience could show me weather I see myself in that position or not.

I can definitely say that I see myself in a similar classroom 5-6 years from now. I can usually tell if something will interest/please me, and this was certainly my type of place. The class consisted of 8 students who seemed to be more or less friendly with each other and who shared their knowledge and collaborated on answering questions from their previous class, and on trying to diagnose a woman from a case study. The class began with them taking turns answering questions ( and writing the answers on the board) as well imputing their own knowledge into other peoples answers. A few examples of questions were ” What is coughing? ” and ” What is Wheezing?”. Another interesting question was one where they had to compose a chart that contrasts characteristics of 5 pulmonary diseases ( all of which are really similar, so it’s pretty hard to differentiate between). It was nice to see that students took initiative in answering the questions and that they imputed their own thoughts to help each other. Afterwards students were given a case study where they had to look at a elderly smoker woman’s test results, symptoms and characteristics and develop a diagnosis for her. After going through diagrams, discussing possible diseases, answering questions, they diagnosed her with Emphysema ( which is apparently a tabooed term, so people use the term COPD).

For me, listening to their critical thinking and out loud problem solving was very interesting. I have just finished the respiratory system in Bio 12, so I had somewhat an idea of what they were talking about. It was also nice to hear explanations from some of the students, because there were a few that stood out with their speaking skills, general background knowledge, and ability to ask good questions. When their class was over, they also talked a little about why they chose Dentistry, and many said that it happened later in their education. This led me to question weather I actually will go to Med School, or if I will slightly/drastically change my career path in the future.

In summary, I really did enjoy the class, and could definitely see myself studying in that type of environment. That being said, there is so much that can happen in the next six years, so instead of concerning myself with the future, I think I will stay focused on the present and go enjoy my spring break by watching Dexter 🙂

Zero-G problems

20 03 2012

written by Damian

We have been talking a lot about space recently in FSL, and I was interested in how zero gravity affects the human body, especially for long term stays in space.

Floating around in space has always been a dream for me, experiencing near zero-G, or micro gravity, imagining myself with nothing pulling me to the ground.

The first problem occurs with the circulatory system. Our bodies were born on earth, and we have lived on earth all our lives, with earth’s gravitational pull. This means that our legs have to push the blood in our veins very hard to keep the blood from pooling at our feet. When you take gravity out of the equation, the blood now is pushed into our head, causing dangerously high blood levels, and possible hemorrhaging.

The second problem is bone and muscle atrophy. Gravitational pull, forces us to push against the ground when we stand, which keeps our leg bones strong, and the muscles intact. With no gravity, our legs shrink. When astronauts return to earth, it can take months to return their bodies to their original potential.

The severity of both above problems can be reduced by wearing tight belts to regulate the blood flow, and special exercises to keep muscles and bones strong. Once on the ground again, astronauts spend weeks working themselves back to their original prowess, only one crucial problem remains. The eyesight of an astronaut after an extended duration space mission becomes dangerously worse, and does not, so far, have a cure.

This newest problem is pressure of the brain as gravity does not hold fluids in the brain down. These fluids press on the back of the eye ball and the optic nerve, causing ridges in the cornea. These ridges are associated with a number of serious diseases, and are bad news when trying the do the fine tasks associated with certain space missions.

Due to these problems and others, a human trip to Mars may just have to wait.

Gene Researcher at the Taubert Lab: Day 4 & 5

18 03 2012

I spent my last two days at the Taubert lab extracting plasmids from bacteria. I followed the alkaline lysis procedure in which bacteria is exposed to NAOH and sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), a strong detergent. The cell membranes of the bacteria burst and the substances inside the bacteria spill out. Sodium acetate, an acidic solution, is then added to neutralize the solution. I observed that by this point, the cell membrane material and DNA material have precipitated. I then separate the cell contents by centrifugation. The resulting substance is extracted to purify the plasmid DNA.

I used a spectrophotometry too. It is a photometer that can measure intensity as a function of the light source wavelength. It is used commonly used for the measurement of transmittance or reflectance of solutions, but it can also be used to measure the equilibrium constant of a solution.

I have learned so much this week at the lab. I can’t wait to work in a genetics lab in the future!!

– Alice Yip

Gene Researcher at the Taubert Lab: Day 3

18 03 2012

Today, I learned about Western blot also known as the immuno blot. Just as PCR detects and amplify specific DNA sequences, the western blot detects specific proteins in a sample. I once again used gel electrophoresis to separate proteins by 3-D structure or denatured proteins by the length of the polypeptide. This time I used SDS- Page as in most proteins, the binding of SDS to the polypeptide chain gives an even distribution of charge per unit. I also heated the sample to 60 degrees Celsius to promote protein denaturation and thus, help SDS bind. A tracking dye was added to the protein solution so we could track the progress of the protein solution through the gel during the run. Afterwards, the proteins are transferred to a membrane where they are searched using antibodies specific to the target protein. Since it was my second time making gel electrophoresis, I found easy to pipette the solution into the holes.


Although reading about Western blotting does not take that long, the actual process actually took the whole day. And in the end, only one of the two samples worked. I was a bit disappointed, but I guess that is what happens in science: experiments don’t always turn out the way you want them to turn out.


– Alice Yip

Gene Researcher at the Taubert Lab: Day 2

13 03 2012

Today, I experimented with gel electrophoresis, a method used to separate proteins by charge and size. In this experiment, it was used to separate DNA fragments and proteins. Nucleic acid molecules are broken apart by applying an electric field which transports the negatively charged molecules through an agarose matrix. As I was observing the electrical field, I noticed that shorter molecules move faster than longer ones and I concluded it was because shorter molecules travel more easily through the pores of the gel. For this procedure, I followed the QIA Quick gel extraction and the buffer I used was TAE.


 After the electrophoresis is complete, I stained the molecules in the gel to make them visible. I was able to see them under ultraviolet light while using protective gear, of course. I took a photo, but the color of the DNA turned out to be an unattractive green and the gel was black. I could not even recognize the green parts were DNA when I took the photo. I guess this sheds light on another side of genetics and it illustrates to me how DNA does not look “beautiful” in real life.


While waiting for the gel to thicken, I made bacterial and seed cultures and synchronized worm growth in C. Elegans.

Another day at the lab has passed by without me even realizing it until now. I wonder what I will be doing tomorrow!

– Alice Yip

Gene Researcher at the Taubert Lab: Day 1

13 03 2012

Today was my first day at the Taubert lab in the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics.

In the morning, I met Dr. Stefan Taubert and he told me about his lab and the research done there. Dr. Taubert and his team studies how the human body regulates undesirable contaminations such as toxins and needed dietary mechanisms like lipids. Lipids can be detrimental as too much of it may lead to diseases, but lipids are also essential for energy upkeep, cellular structure and other biological progressions in our body. Troubles in lipid biology uptake can result in obesity, diabetes and heart disease. These diseases affect many people around the world. In the Taubert lab, the researchers investigate nutritional biology by studying a transparent worm called Caenorhabditis elegans. These worms metabolise lipids and remove hazardous poisons using biological mechanisms that human processes use. Therefore, scientists can use the C. elegans as a model to study the processes in humans. Dr. Taubert explained to me that the biology of the worms may be exciting, but the primary goal is to understand the biological aspects of human diseases.

I then met Donha Park, Ph.D who is a research associate in the Taubert Lab. He explained to me more about the research that happens in the lab and the basics of genetics and molecular biology. He told me about PCR (Polymerase chain reaction), a crucial scientific technique used to amplify a single piece of DNA across numerous orders of scale, creating thousands to millions of copies of a specific DNA sequence. Then, I did some hands- on work. But first, I had to learn how to use a pipette. The pipettes that scientists use at the lab are high- tech! The equipment is very precise and everything is sterile. I learned how to do the first part of PCR. The method mainly focuses on thermal cycling including cycles of repeated heating and cooling of the reaction of DNA melting and the reaction of enzymes of the DNA.


Before I knew it, it was already 5:30 pm and I had not even finished going through the PCR process. I finally understand why it takes scientists many years before they discover something significant that has not been found before. I am amazed by how long it takes me to go through the PCR process, but also by how much PCR can do! Without PCR, scientists would not be able to understand genetics and DNA.


– Alice Yip