Datablitz Report: Another Episode of Travelers
As soon as I got off the elevator, I could smell that I was indeed in the right place. Inside the conference room, I found some curious Peruvian food, as well as the evening's presenters: Kirstin Grahn and Rose Do, UBRP students from Dr. Sterling's lab (Veterinary Science), and Marcela Nouzova, a BRAVO! visiting graduate student from the Czech Republic working in Dr. Galbraith's lab (Plant Science). Kirstin and Rose encouraged us to try the Peruvian food; and as we munched on the native cuisine, they shared their work and travels with us.
Kirstin and Rose both traveled to Peru, working in the same facility, but on different projects. Kirstin's focus was the parasite microsporidia, which typically infects immunocompromised patients and has become more prevalent with the AIDS epidemic. Microsporidia infects the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe diarrhea. Kirstin's job was to determine the prevalence of this parasite by examining fecal samples from AIDS patients and children from the hospital and nearby shantytowns. She found a prevalence of about 9% in the children of the shantytown, 7% in the young patients of the hospital, and 2.5% in AIDS patients. Although her results are confounded by the fact that the children's samples were fresh and the AIDS patients' samples were frozen, she nonetheless confirmed that microsporidia does exist in these populations.
Rose's project focused on the parasite cyclospora, which effects many children in the shantytowns of Peru. She was interested in the possible modes of transmission through the food eaten. Gathering chicken intestines, mussels and fish from the local marketplaces, Rose examined these samples for the parasite. However, she found no cyclospora in any of these potential food sources, although she did see other parasites in the chickens and fish.
Both Rose and Kirstin also had the opportunity to participate in other ongoing projects at the lab and do some traveling. Their pictures captured the conditions of the nearby shantytowns, with makeshift housing and medical clinics. The also enjoyed a trip to the Amazon River, and a difficult, but satisfying hike to the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
Dessert and the final presentation were served up by Marcela Nouzova. Her work in Plant Science centers on the repetitive DNA in plant genomes. Although most plants have about the same amount of coding sequence, the size of their genomes vary because of tandem repeat sequences dispersed throughout the genome. Marcela uses several techniques to identify the location of these repeat sequences: fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), primed in situ DNA labeling (PRINS), and a newer, more efficient micro array based analysis of DNA. In addition to beautiful slides of her work, she shared pictures of her hometown in the Czech Republic and the surrounding countryside. Marcela and her Czech labmates prepared "yummy" desserts -- strudel and kolacky.
So, over the course of an hour or two, we had traveled to the shantytowns of Peru, to Machu Picchu, to the Czech countryside and back again. As we listened to the presentations and sampled new and exciting foods, we learned a bit about working in a foreign laboratory, health conditions in developing countries, and a city in the Czech Republic that has existed since at least the Middle Ages. BRAVO! Datablitzes always have high quality presentations and "free dinner." I would encourage you to attend!
Nicole Giedinghagen, UBRPer in Dr. Rowe's Lab, Family Studies
The University of Arizona