Category Archives: Nerdy Tumbleweeds

The Scare

Tumbleweeds Tumbling

My husband had a headache. He took a nap and woke up an hour and a half later and couldn’t move his arm properly. Next thing he’s being transferred from our small rural hospital to a major teaching hospital with lights, sirens and a full stroke protocol organized.

IMG_1707 (1)

We got lucky. Hubby dearest had a dissection of the inner carotid artery causing a mild stroke. He had four days in hospital and was released with residual damage only the neurologist can detect. It was the mildest stroke one could have. The neurologist also said all the signs the stroke occurred should vanish completely because it was so very mild. If one has to have a stroke, this is the type to have.

The dissection is considered traumatic in origin because of a seatbelt accident. That means it will likely not happen again. All the other blood vessels are clear with…

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Axolotl salamanders provide clues to spinal cord regeneration

I was really upset when I heard that Superman, Christopher Reeve, was injured in a riding accident resulting in a severe spinal cord injury. Complications from the injury eventually caused his untimely death. When the Reeve Foundation was formed I contacted them and spoke at length with someone in the new organization about what the axolotl could do. It was a song I continued to sing over and over again to anyone who would listen. I would like to think someone did listen. Still it’s so obvious to anyone who knows anything about the near miraculous ability of the axolotl to regenerate that understanding this would lead to many regenerative breakthroughs that I realistically can’t take any credit. It would appear a huge step has been taken in that possibility.

superman-curse

This is a fascinating article on why the axolotl can regenerate the spinal cord after an injury but humans cannot. These scientists have located the precise master gene involved and the exact differentiation tree pathway accessed by the axolotl. In humans, this activation does not happen because a scarring pathway is activated instead. If the genes for the regeneration pathway are still intact in humans, we now have the potential to stimulate the cells at the site of a spinal cord injury so they go down a regeneration pathway to regenerate the spinal cord instead of scarring and destruction.

If this works the potential is endless. Axolotls can regenerate their hearts, their limbs, and even their brains. Imagine those who have lost a limb now being able to grow a new one or someone in heart failure just growing a new heart. The possibilities are endless.

This discovery also happens to fit our model in Embryogenesis Explained.

Original article:

AP-1cFos/JunB/miR-200a regulate the pro-regenerative glial cell response during axolotl spinal cord regeneration

Nice summary/explanation

Axolotl salamanders provide clues to spinal cord regeneration

 

Alonsa Tornado Part One – Our own near miss.

We had a near miss with a tornado Friday August 3, 2018. We are fine. it was close but we did not suffer any damage at our home.

Tumbleweeds Tumbling

It began while we were sitting outside enjoying the cool breeze in the heavy damp heat we had been experiencing. We could hear a storm forming up to the southwest but there nothing awful was on radar so I wasn’t worried.

Tornado

I would later learn the storm formed outside of radar range because the Fox Warren is down for renovations and that leaves a blind spot right where this storm was. I could tell we were going to get a bad storm so we moved the truck into the garage. There was a lot of thunder and it had that “hail is coming” look you get to know on living on the prairie. We moved back inside and were soon absorbed in our writing.

It was our dog Misty barking that first caught my attention again. I was writing and she leaped up and barked her full dog alert at…

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Four Diatom Problems

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(By Michael Zheng, 2015)

TEM (Transmission Electron Microscopy) is a rare skill. I did a little when I wrote:
  • Bender, R., Bellman, S.H. and Gordon, R. (1970) ART and the ribosome: a preliminary report on the three-dimensional structure of individual ribosomes determined by an Algebraic Reconstruction Technique. J. Theor. Biol. 29, 483-488.

and learned to appreciate those who do it well.

There are 4 diatom problems I’d like to see solved, for which TEM may prove critical:
  1. What is the pathway (literally, not just biochemically) by which oil droplets are formed, coalesced, accumulated, passed out of the plastids, occupy huge volumes inside the diatom, and via milking or spontaneously get outside the diatom? Such knowledge may prove critical to biofuel production.
  2. Triangular Archaea and triangular centric diatoms sometimes have square (90deg) corners instead of the “expected” 60deg. This suggests some structure, something like a centriole, in those corners. What is there, if anything?
  3. Is there any correlation between the 3D array of microtubules and microfilaments and the shape of a diatom valve? If yes, can we observe how the relationship changes during valve morphogenesis?
  4. In motile pennate diatoms, what is the pathway by which raphe fibrils are formed and exit the cell membrane? Once out, are they attached to the membrane or not, while they traverse the raphe?
Regarding #2: While most plants do not have centrosomes, diatoms do, if not proper centrioles:

Nuns work to save axolotls from extinction.

Gill, V. (2018).

Meet the nuns helping save a sacred species from extinction.

which is a ray of hope for preservation from extinction for our favorite model animal, the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum, a neotenic salamander).

When I “retired” in 2011, Natalie and I delivered our axolotl colony to the dinosaur museum in Drumheller, Alberta. See:

Alberta, Canada ~ Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

Our book Embryogenesis Explained is based on our axolotl research. Susan Crawford-Young is carrying this on, and soon hopes to be imaging axolotl embryos in 4D at the Canadian Light Source (a synchrotron in Saskatoon, SK, Canada).

Visual projection to the skin in the mimic octopus? (OCTM)

I send out weekly schedules to my various collaborators and devote Mondays to taking time to speaking via Skype with anyone who might want to talk with me. I started to take the opportunity of these weekly schedule updates to let everyone know some of the ideas on my mind, of which they might want to partake. I now extend the invitation to readers of the blog. Perhaps inspired by the work of Helmut Hirsch on kitten visual cortex and the model we published in which linear receptive fields act like rays in computed tomography:

Gordon, R. and Hirsch, H.V.B. (1977) Vision begins with direct reconstruction of the retinal image, how the brain sees and stores pictures. In:  Gegenstrom, Für Helmut Hirsch zum Siebzigsten/Against the Stream, for Helmut Hirsch on His 70th Birthday. H. Schallenberger and H. Schrey, (eds.) Peter Hammer Verlag GmbH, Wuppertal: pp. 201-214.

I started thinking about the reverse process of vision. How could we get an image in our mind out, so others could see it. Now, of course, this is precisely what a fine artist does, and what happens when a forensic artist reconstructs a face you’ve seen through a set of questions. But could each of us do it ourselves, with less training, and faster? Sometime in the mid-1970s I conceived of a device that could pick up an image from our skin, by noting that each hair has a ring muscle around it. This then got the silly name of “goose bump voluntary mind reader”. As is my wont, I of course did not even attempt to build such a contraption. With modern technology, I suppose it could be built.

According to Wikipedia was discovered in 1998, and apparently can mimic 15 other animals:

Since octopuses can learn quite a bit, maybe it could do even more. So the question arises whether the patterning (and mimic behavior) is built-in? If not, then this octopus perhaps can project an image in its mind onto its skin. Perhaps, indeed, we could do the same. So here’s the tentative title for a paper:
Visual projection to the skin in the mimic octopus? (OCTM)

.Mimic
Showing you what’s on my mind