Works and Days

Daniel Lybrand, Wehrli Lab Notes, Post 3

My internship at OHSU has now ended, but fortunately not my partnership with the Wehrli lab. I will continue on as a research assistant for the next year before proceeding to graduate school and will hopefully help to advance the lab’s ongoing projects.

We have been making good progress towards understanding some of the mechanisms by which processes dependent on Wnt signaling are regulated. As mentioned earlier, fluorescence microscopy figures prominently in our research. Marcel has taken a somewhat non-traditional approach to fluorescence imaging for this project in order to skirt some issues peculiar to the Wnt pathway. This has largely paid off, but we are sometimes hindered by issues unrelated to the imaging techniques themselves: often, the biggest challenge we face comes from our research subjects before they are even dissected. While Drosophila are typically easy to care for, certain genetic constructs, pivotal to our research, have a disappointing effect on their survival rates. An experiment that seems very straightforward at the outset can be a laborious process as fly crosses are made and remade to yield the needed larvae. Despite all the resources that our fully functional lab has access to, research can come to a halt due to events beyond our control. Additionally, our latest observations from the confocal microscope may prompt us to reconsider what we’ve previously seen. We may want to revisit an experiment that seemed complete weeks or months ago.

 Despite this apparent lack of progress, the pieces do eventually come together in some fashion. We may be thoroughly confused by our data on some days, but when Marcel sees what we’ve missed before, things begin to make sense. These are the “aha!” moments that scientists strive for. At these moments, I typically remain confused. Recognizing patterns can be hard. Understanding the implications of those patterns is harder. Some of our experiments give strong results that, on the surface, get us no closer to our quarry. These results may be the key to answering our questions if we can come to understand their significance. I look forward to the discovery.

Tags: medicine , Wehrli lab, Wnt signaling, biology, research assistant, Drosophila