Works and Days

Notes from Wehrli Lab, OHSU

Biological slide featuring a protein complex unique to Wnt signaling

Fluorescence image of Drosophila wing disc in cross-section. Cell nuclei in blue, membranes in red, and a protein complex unique to Wnt signaling in green.

After several weeks in a fruit fly lab, I now feel quite confident in my ability to dissect larvae, create new crosses from different fly strains, and prepare tissues for microscopic imaging. Although I had never performed these techniques just two months ago, I now carry them out from memory on a regular basis. Without realizing it, I have learned how to identify many of the common Drosophila mutants that are used to create experimental crosses. I am also learning how to combine various protein or RNAi constructs in a single Drosophila line in order to interrupt or better visualize components of the Wnt signaling pathway. However, the most amazing thing to me is how much my dissection skills have improved. On my first day, I was shocked that I would be expected to remove organs from a larva only two or three millimeters long. Now, I can perform the task readily, although not nearly as quickly as my more experienced co-worker, Misha. I still have a lot to learn about the mechanisms involved in Wnt signaling. Understanding the research is far more difficult than simply carrying out the procedures. While I now know quite a bit about working with fruit flies, the complexities of the signaling pathway still elude.

The laboratory that I work in puts me in close contact with many other researchers. We share equipment with and borrow reagents from some of our neighbors. Researchers from different labs regularly present recent developments at weekly meetings, providing an opportunity for the rest of the department to make suggestions about research challenges or gain insight from breakthroughs.

This type of cooperation is not unique to a large institution like OHSU. Biology departments at smaller institutions like Reed College operate in much the same way. However, as part of such a large institution, our lab does have access to some incredible resources. Chief among them for our research is the Advanced Light Microscopy Core. This facility contains the state-of-the-art confocal microscope that we use for most of our imaging work. It is shared with researchers from all over OHSU, not just our department. Access to particularly expensive instruments like this is a great advantage to research.

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