Science Interviews


Sun, 28th May 2006

Science Update - Fish Libraries and cell division

Chelsea Wald and Bob Hirshon

Part of the show Naked Science Q&A and the Science of Happiness


Kat - Now we're going to hop across the ocean for this week's Science Update. We've got Bob Hirshon and Chelsea Wald primed and ready to tell us about a digital fish library and how we can turn back the clock in cell growth by reversing cell division.

Bob - This week for the Naked Scientists we'll be talking about scientists who have hit the rewind button on cell division. But first, it's not uncommon these days to hear of libraries going digital. That can mean scanning millions of pages, but what do you do if instead of books, your library consists of animals?

Chelsea - In museums and institutions around the world, vast collections of animal specimens are just gathering dust, but not for much longer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at La Jolla California. It's home to one of the world's biggest fish libraries and a team there is about to embark on a new project to scan the fish and put them online. They're using MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, which is commonly used by doctors to look inside the body without ever making a cut. As radiologist Larry Frank of the University of California San Diego explains, scanning fish with MRI will allow scientists to do the same thing.

Larry - Here is an image of a shark brain. you can see that we've been able to separate all the different components: the olfactory lobes, the eyes, the nose. Here is the same object from a dissected specimen. You can see that they're essentially the same. This was done completely non-invasively.

Chelsea - This is especially useful for rare specimens that lots of people want to study but are difficult to replace. It's also good for seeing things in situ, like the small fish that curator Phil Hastings points out inside the belly of one of the first fish they scanned.

Phil - We're actually getting an image here of two different fish. One has been eaten by the other one.

Chelsea - They hope that the digital fish library will offer opportunities to make new discoveries to everyone from university researchers to secondary school students.

Bob - You can check out their progress on Also in the news recently, for the first time scientists have performed a feat that was once thought as impossible as un-ringing a bell. A team led by molecular biologist Gary Gorbsky at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation reversed the process of cell division.

Gary - And specifically the end stages when they're actually divided in half. We've been able to reverse that process and go from the stage where you have two cells back to the stage where you have a single cell.

Bob - He says they turned the clock back by tinkering with proteins that regulate cell division. This worked only when the divided cells hadn't completely finished separating. The implications aren't clear yet, but the technique could be useful for cancer researchers who are always looking for ways to keep rogue cells under control.

Chelsea - Next week we'll talk about some paranoid birds who go to great lengths to hide their belongings. Until then, I'm Chelsea Wald.

Bob - And I'm Bob Hirshon fro AAAS, the Science Society. Back to you Naked Scientists.


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