This month's Secret Science Club was a lecture by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory molecular biologist Gregory Hannon on the role of micoRNA on gene regulation, with a specific focus on the possible role of microRNA in various cancers. Dr. Hannon's lecture was accompanied by some gorgeous animations of RNA working its mojo on the old double helix. The topic then narrowed to the role of miRNA in Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease, and referenced the research of Dr. Elizabeth Murchison, formerly of CSH Lab. In the course of the lecture, Dr. Hannon noted a genetic similarity among Tasmanian devils which indicates that the species had passed through a population "bottleneck", a situation that characterizes cheetahs as well.
My question in the Q&A (inspired by mention of the myelin sheath) regarding the possible role of microRNAs in auto-immune diseases such as (you guessed it) multiple sclerosis, lupus, and Type 1 diabetes. This is a possible avenue of inquiry, but the research at this stage mainly deals with cancers.
Besides the lecture, there was an opening act, researcher/rapper Zach Charlop-Powers (originally of the northern Bronx, not far from my usual stomping grounds) performed his Polymerase Chain Reaction rap:
I had met Zach and his wife at the Imagine Science Film Festival, and was pleased to see them both. Additionally, "Sadly, No!" regular and Brooklyn resident N__B was there with the lovely and brilliant Mrs. __B. N__B, being approximately five feet, sixteen inches in height, hilariously characterized most of the attendees as "hobbits". Besides the usual booze, there were delicious cupcakes available in the performance/lecture space. After a typical night of booze and brilliance, I was able to get home just as the snow started falling- a nice coda to another great Tuesday.
Now, because Tasmanian devils were featured in the lecture, I am going to plug the book Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger, written by Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson, two of the SSC founders. It's a hell of a read, alternately funny, informative, and melancholy (considering how the thylacine's saga ended), and the illustrations by Alexis Rockman are beautiful (and, when one considers his media, pretty mind-blowing.