Planet RAT

In this recent Other Data Club, Francisca told us about something she would do in a few days time that we might find interesting to watch – laser microdissection.

Friday, 2 p.m., when I got to the room where they have the P.A.L.M., I caught the three researchers playing what seemed like a game about settling Humanity on Mars. They were marking lake-like areas on the arid surface of Mars. Trying to find water? Designing lakes? Cooooooool, thought I. I do like strategy games. I’m not that updated right now, but spent many hours away in Civilization and Settlers. So, what was going on here?

Truth is I wasn’t allowed to play. Mars wasn’t Mars but a vast field of brain cells; and the lakes weren’t water on Mars but the outlining of the sub-ventricular zone (SVZ). Their game was to outline|dissect|collect the SVZ area of a series of slices of adult rat brain placed on several slides.

In a previous post, I mentioned the slicing of a brain in a device called a cryostat. Now they were using P.A.L.M. to pick the SVZ from similar slices to, later, extract the RNA from those areas of that brain.

Really felt like a game: the drawing of the area with the strategy of defining reasonably large areas to collect the largest amount of cells possible; the laser (like a thunderstorm on Mars) cutting the brain along the line previously defined; the high energy injection to make the dissected area pop from the surface into the cap. It felt like a distant interaction, like if we were monitoring a surveyor robot tasting Mars surface. And yet, there it was the slide with the large slices and the cap with the tiniest slices. Size is a kind of distance. Nano-grams and micro-meters are the currency here.

Our brain is Mars in our being. What will we find there? Will it be possible for us to live there?

Here at CNC we are lucky enough to be currently experiencing that exploration. However, the distance to overcome is still quite vast, there’s a lot of travelling to do. And a lot of the surveying is not performed directly on Mars but on a different yet similar planet > planet RAT.

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