Monday, January 15, 2007

Genomics Gets Nasty

Just saw an entertaining press release about the publication of the genome of the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. I find this entertaining because it does a remarkable job of capturing the personality of Jane Carlton, the PI on the project, who I used to work with at TIGR.

I particularly like the end

Viewed under the microscope Trichomonas vaginalis moves quickly; it has four undulating flagella and a tail. "It is a gassy organism," says Dr. Carlton. It has special power-generating structures called hydrogenosomes. They produce hydrogen. "So it is releasing hydrogen into the liquid media, making it frothy," she says. "That is why the vaginal discharge is frothy."

The pathogen grows easily in the lab in test tubes containing some liquid media. And it has, as she says, "a real yuck factor to it." A good way to know the microbe is growing well is to smell the contents of the test tube. "It smells foul, it has a fishy odor; really nasty," says Dr. Carlton. "My technician used to get grossed out by that."
While it is true that Jane has no fear about saying things that make some people uncomfortable, it is entertaining to the it in the NYU press release.

The press release is worth reading for another reason - the history of this genome project is different from many other parasites. In this case, the genome was enormously bigger than had been predicted (usually they are smaller than predicted, in part becuase if you over predict the genome size, you will have some extra money in your grant to cover other issues). The press release gives a good impression of how much of a pain it is to run a genome project sometimes.

Anyway - back from a little layoff and just wanted to say - good job Jane.

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