We change topics somewhat this week to learn a little bit more about the author of this blog. Regular readers not interested are invited to return next week for more architectural and structural engineering news and opinion.
Readers can catch themselves up on basics of the Birdsell Family and Friends Brain Cancer Research Fund through our team page, included is a YouTube video summarizing the fund’s mission.
I had the pleasure November 23rd of touring the lab of Dr. Mahoney, a immunology microbiologist at the University of Calgary Heritage Medical Research Building, by invitation of the Canadian Cancer Society. Though his research is not directly supported by the BFFBCRF’s initiative, our efforts in turn are supported by the Canadian Cancer Society which endeavors to connect donors with the fruits of their labour.
Oncologic Immunology uses viruses, both natural and genetically modified, to 1) kill cancer cells and 2) trigger the body’s natural immune response to fight cancer. Much of Dr. Mahoney’s research focuses on the how of this chain of events occurs and he does it, in part, by leading an absolute all-out assault on the state-of-the-art in medical imaging. The tour unfortunately did not include what was described as the “Cadillac of microscopes”, even though it’s capabilities far exceed what one remembers from high school science class. Kept in the basement in a bio-secure area, along with the intrepid mice of science, it has the ability to stain different tissues in the sample different colours and film the response in real time (or time lapse). The images feel slightly abstract seen against a black background but with practice one can start to understand the behavior of the virus toward cancer in a live mouse model. It seemed with every new video clip presented Dr. Mahoney introduced a new discovery never observed before.
Next, touring the wet lab, outfitted just like a movie set would decorate a science lab, the theme of state-of-the-art technology continued. The automation of experimentation appears to be a boon for Dr. Mahoney’s lab, not only in the breath of testing possible but also in its exactly repeatable nature. So yeah, robots. The non-descript black box seen at the beginning of the clip is actually an automated microscope, something heretowith I’d been ignorant of. It can track, in total, over 20 000 tests. This is important when testing against the human genome. If I’m understanding the presentation correctly, there is a process by which each of the 20 000 genes is suppressed in sequence and then the whole thing run twice more for verification. The influence of big data and analytics was the biggest thing not seen on our tour.
The BFFBCRF thanks the Canadian Cancer Society for organizing the event and wishes Dr. Mahoney and his lab the best of luck in their research!