A Weird Seizure Drug

A friend of mine, who’s name won’t be mentioned, blacked out in class the other day. Since then, he’s been on a seizure drug. The drug is giving a very weird side effect. It must be affecting his auditory cortex, because he is hearing all audio roughly a half-octave lower than what it really is. In fact, he’s using a sound editing program to raise his entire music library up the ~half-octave to compensate. The name of the drug is Tegretol. In the midst of headaches over finals, I’ll see if I can find any interesting papers on it.

Sphingolipid Synthesis

I’ve spent this last week familiarizing myself with this article for my biochemistry class. Obviously, the article is way to large to bite off in one blog. One spot that draws my curiosity.

The AUR1 is promoted by the presence of Galactose. The kicker is that the presence of Glucose will turn off the gene. The organism is unable to live without the target sphingolipids. Is there some reason for this? I would think that adaptation would have long since accounted for this. Weird.


Some observations on working with zebrafish:

Their vision isn’t as reliable as I thought. They would try like there’s no tomorrow to swim through the Plexiglas wall when there’s a hold only a few inches over. If I want to continue my experiments without having an aneurysm, I’ll have to make a few changes.

1 – The walls will have to be marked up opaque so that the fish don’t keep trying to swim through them.

2 – Since they have trouble navigating the single chamber, I’ll have to use plastic sheets to funnel them toward the door.

3 – I have a new set of tests to run. Is it the food that draws the fish into the food chamber, or is it the pheromones of the “social reward” of other fish that is repulsing the fish away. Once I get back to school after Thanksgiving, looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me.


Since I took Cell Biology last year, the Telomerase Gene has been an object of curiosity to me. Manipulating this pathway could slow down aging. On the other hand, it could be used in the opposite way to fight cancer. I do understand that this raises the ethical issue of how much we are supposed to tamper with. Then again, tampering is what we do as scientists, climbing mountains because they’re there.

I’ve been looking at this article for a paper I still haven’t started for Biochemistry.

Is any one here doing work with telomere regulation? If so, I’d like to here about it.

Of Books in Neurobiology

Over the last few weeks, we the Neuro class have finished our last book and we began Time, Love, Memory by Jonathan Weiner. The theme of this book is experiments on behavior on fruit flies, drosophila.

I’m beginning to see why fruit flies would be such a good choice. They are low maintainance and are offer much more statistic data potential. T. H. Morgan was known for his early work on fruit flies. From my understanding, he’s the first one to use them as a model species. Seems much more economical than the classic mice or dogs.

I also find it pretty cool that Seymour Benzer, a pioneer in molecular biology, was previously a physicist who helped develop the transistor. After working on the transistor, he became a biologist. It seems like quite a shift. Since the 40s/50s, has there been a change in the ability of people to change fields at such an advanced level? If we turn the clock back to the 1600s, the time of our previous book: Soul Made Flesh, there was much more of an interplay between fields. I guess all sciences are united by the Scientific Method, but it does seem like kindof a jump.

Fun with Chlorine

Hi guys and gals, it’s been awhile since my last entry. Last week kept me very busy. In the midst of my late nights typing, I learned some fun things about chloride channels (for one of PZ’s exams.) I learned about their job of regulating cell volume and an appropriate cell-membrane charge.

One thing piqued my curiosity. The cell exterior has roughly 5 milliMolar [chloride – ], while the interior has 125 Molar [chloride – ]. The interior also has a negative charge. Despite all of those factors, the articles I read seemed to say that chloride would diffuse inward if the channels were to open. That is very weird, unless I’m missing something. Is there some very high concentration of a similar ion on the outside that is high enough to send chloride scurrying inward? If anyone has experience in this area, please chime in.

A victim of lies

A few weeks ago in Bio-chem, we learned about fatty acids. We learned that any partially hydrogenated fats/oils are trans fats. If it’s under .5 grams per serving, food companies are privileged to round that number down and boast their food as “Zero Trans Fats.”

This hit home to me this morning. I was eating a General Mills cereal. While the box claimed to have zero trans fat, the ingredients list revealed a dirty secret: partially hydrogenated coconut oil. Nice move GM.

Dear FDA, grow a spine.

This last week in Biochemistry

It’s been quite busy last week. Despite the Neurobiology class didn’t meet that week, my other classes kept my hands full. I blame it on two exams and a paper due during the week of Homecoming.

Since I don’t have any new thoughts on Neurobiology, let’s see what can be dug up from my Biochemistry class. For the lab, I wrote my paper of Desulforedoxen. Its job is reducing sulfates. You can look it up at JMol using “1DHG” as the code.

I found this protein very interesting. In class, we had learned about the driving forces for tertiary structure in proteins: H-bonding, hydrophobic/Vanderwal’s, salt bridges, and disulfide bonds between Cystine residues. Upon examining Desulforedoxen, I learned that Cystines were capable of more than just S-S bonding. With four Cystines clustered nearby each other in the tertiary structure, an iron atom sits tetrahedrally bonded to the four sulfurs. While I bet it is a major player in tertiary structure, it just reeks of active site. Since the transition metal, and its neighboring sulfurs, have ‘D’ orbitals, this looks like it’s capable of something that can’t easily be performed in a test tube.

I’ll be a lot of you already know that this can happen in proteins. For me, it was learning it by observation instead of in lecture, that was fun. Moments like that have made it well worth it to go into biology. It’s also cool how such lesser-used amino acids have more than one purpose that they can serve in cells.

Note: the article I read about this protein said that it had iron bonded to the sulfur. When I looked it up in JMol, it was instead bonded to mercury. Weird. An abstract of the article I used can be found here. Anyways, just washing my hands so I don’t fall victim to the inconsistencies-lynch-mob. Have a nice day.

Experiment Thoughts

Since I’ll be using PZMyer’s lab, I’ll have access to plenty of zebra fish. As per being in his Neurobiology course, I get to design my own experiment.

Zebra fish are schooling fish. If they are isolated, I wonder if finding another fish would be their top priority. Would it be high enough that they would navigate a few turns to find? Would it be higher priority than food? It looks like I may be testing the power of a social reward.

Some other random thoughts:

In class, we bounced the idea that deer are the perfect example of depression and suicidal tendencies in the wild. Who else would stand in the middle of the road and just stare at the oncoming car?

Edit: don’t take the above comment literally. It’s more of a joke than it is a valid scientific statement. I hope the Grinch didn’t steal everyone’s sense of humor last Christmas!

Anyways, I look forward to learning more about neurobiology. Interestingly enough, I’m taking Intro to Psychology for one of my gen-eds. It will be fun to look at thought and nerves from two different ends.

Hey folks

Hello. I’m a student in PZMyers’ Neurobiology course. I’ve never blogged before, but hey, there’s a first for everything I guess. My major is Biology. My strengths are ideas and problem solving; weaknesses include porcrastination. When I’m not in class, I enjoy swimming, swing dancing, and Rock & Roll.

I don’t really have any reason for taking neurobiology over any other bio elective I just figured that it would be fun. I’ve found that I have more interest in studying the micro level over the macro level. If I decide that I like neuro, maybe I’ll look into a grad program with neuro, though I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

I’ll catch you all later.