Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mitosis in the Morning...

As part of my evolution build I wanted to have an activity related to chromosomal rearrangements. We know these are important in evolution, some of the clearest examples are in our own evolutionary history. So I developed a series of human chromosomes similar to those over at Genome Island.

These consist of representations of human chromosomes, textured with the standard banding patterns (ideograms) that geneticists use. When the user clicks on the chromosome, menu dialogue allows the user to look at the similarities between the human chromosome and the chromosomes of selected mammals: mouse, chimp, and the macaque. This is done using a data base portal called Ensembl. This displays regions of synteny, which in the bioinformatics context refers to regions of chromosome that have the same arrangement of genes in both species. Here is a quick example for human chromosome 1 showing the regions of synteny in chimp chromosomes to human chromosome 1.

It's probably hard to see what's going on here. But the big white structure in the center represents huna chromsome 1, and the chimp chromsomes with regions of synteny for human chromosome 1 are shown to the left and right. Human chromosome one has synteny with most of chimp chromosome 1 with just a little region of synteny with chimp chromosome 2A and chimp chromosome 10.

Speaking of chromosomes, Max Chatnoir was wishing for a build related to mitosis and meiosis so to help me think about this, I spent the last couple of days building mitosis at my carmine site. None of this is scripted and it still isn't clear what the best strategy for this is.

Here is a quick look at my mitosis builds. These are quite large and I will probably scale them down a bit. They are relatively simple but do take up a fair amount of real estate-not prims but literally really real estate.

This shows prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase and telophase. You can see me in the bottom of the picture. Each of the "cells" is 10m in diameter.

I don't normally build this big, but it seemed easier to do this big. The mitosis build is currently at:

Here is a close up of metaphase when the chromosomes (shown in red and blue) are lined up in the middle of the cell.

My thinking is rather than animate mitosis, having this build (maybe on a smaller scale) and then an activity center where students can play with chromsome models like they do in lab. I think it is possible to script the chromosomes to sense a proper arrangement. That would provide a nice collaborative activity.

Speaking of collaborative activities, I also tweaked my predator natural selection module and installed it on my college land site. The module is packaged appropriately with a velociraptor texture so hopefully student predators will get in to the spirit of things.

Here's the module installed at I am also building an activity center just above Predator which students will do first to study natural selection under less challenging conditions.

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