I know! Field trips in a Master’s of Science program? How ridiculous!
It was awesome. We went to the Institute of Regenerative Cures in Sacramento.
I arrived early and waited out front with some classmates. Our tour guide arrived and we waited out front a little longer til everyone showed up.
While waiting the tour guide, who had designed the building we were about to go into, told us about his hobby, early television history!
After the primer on early television we entered the building and got a tour of one of the best facilities for practicing biology in existence right now.
The building itself was actually built a long time ago for the California state fair. It was the “women’s building.”
The brick exterior and columnaic entrance have stayed the same since the building was constructed to maintain the historical site. The interior has been heavily modified.
The building had no roof back in the day and was just an enclosure for a bunch of different events that you usually see at state fairs.
The building was sold to the University of California system. They slapped a roof on it, and used it to store records.
Our tour guide said that he was called in to turn it into a biology facility later on. Half the building is used for bio research while the other half is rented out to other companies.
The researchers in the Institute are working on a number of things. They researched a treatment for the “bubble boy disease” there. They’re working on using umbilical cords to create bone marrow for transplants, using Tal proteins to treat Huntington’s, creating HIV resistant cells, and helping people who can’t swallow to swallow are just a few of the things they work on there.
The tour guide also showed us the section that he was most proud of as he had designed it. A set of rooms for making the actual drugs and proteins to export to hospitals. Making the drugs requires extremely sterile technique to prevent giving someone who is already sick something that will make them worse. The rooms are designed to be extremely sterile.
To enter the rooms you pass through an airlock where you are required to cover every inch of your body in a disposable gown.
The airlock goes to a hallway with access to three separate clean rooms.
There is “negative pressure” in the rooms. That means that air is constantly entering the room from the top and going out the bottom. This is so that if any cells that are worked with in the rooms get into the air, they will be redirected to teh ground and sucked out through a grate in the wall instead of ending up in someone’s medicine.
The air is cleaned excessively to about 3000 times more clean than average air before entering the facility.
There is a lot of electrical equipment in the rooms that will require replacing eventually. To prevent electricians from having to gown up just to replace a lightbulb, all the eletricals are accessible from panels on the second story of the building.
It was pretty cool for a scientist like me to see the best possible place to do research in. The tour guide mentioned that he does tours of the interior of the super clean rooms for smaller groups. I might take him up on that at a later time!
As I was coming home from work yesterday I passed by a sign on campus that announced a blood drive.
I’ve always wanted to donate, but a few things worried me about it.
I take antihistamines for my allergies, so I’m constantly getting a little sick. You can’t donate within three days of being sick.
I used to be freaked out by my blood being inside another person’s body, but the Lego arguement helped me get over that problem. It’s not really my blood once its outside of my body. It’s just blood. And I might need blood someday when I’m in a hospital, so I should give some now!
It’s also a little difficult to schedule when you donate blood because they’re open at the same time I’m working or at school.
So as I was biking past this sign for the blood drive I was thinking about my sister as yesterday would’ve been her 27th birthday. I had some strange compulsion to get her a present. The sign and the present idea lined up and I decided giving blood would be my present to her.
The process was fairly smooth, mostly just a lot of waiting.
I got a card to fill out with my address, name, and phone number. I talked to some people about having them sponsor my donaion or something so they could get a grant for supplis at their student-run clinic in Sacramento.
I then sat in a line or people waiting to go into the five buses lined up along the UC Davis quad.
Eventually one of the buses called me and the exchange student next to me up. I then sat in the bus while they entered my info into a computer and confirmed that everything was right.
After that I went into a tiny little closet (slightly bigger, but it felt like a closet) at the back of the bus to answer questions about my sexual, travel, and penal history. Basically anything that puts you at risk for HIV.
A guy came into the closet to test the hemoglobin levels of my blood and my bsic vitals to make sure I could donate. Everything looked good and he sent me into the main part of the bus.
The bus had several reclining chairs set up all along it. The perfect ergonomic position for holding your arm out and letting people drain blood from it.
One of the two women working in that section explained everything to me, set up the IV, and started taking the blood out. The actual process of being drained took about six minutes.
While the IV is in I didn’t look at it. I find that needles only creep me out if I look at them.
They gave me a little squeeze ball to roll in my arm. Keeping my hand moving kept the blood flowing into the IV.
At the end they bandaged up my arm and sent me to the front of the bus to get cookies, water, and Gatorade. I got the sticker in the picture above as well.
It was pretty fun for a first time. I’m planning on going again in June. I’m sure my sister would’ve liked her present!
Normally I’d post something about D&D on Monday, but this week I’ll be showing off something that came in the mail recently.
I got into graduate school! Hurray! Validation!
This year I only applied to local schools as my wife is in the first year of a two year program for her teaching credential.
I applied to two programs at the college I got my undergraduate degree from and a third program at a nearby CSU (Sac State).
I’ve been rejected from one of the programs and have yet to hear back from the other one, but Sac State has accepted me! Woohoo!
Assuming the other program doesn’t accept me, I will be driving to the capital every day to learn and research science stuff.
The professor I’ve been placed with studies salmonella. I haven’t read up a lot on it, but what I saw on the papers she’s published was interesting.
Salmonella typically hurt your body in many ways one of which is by attacking your macrophage cells. Macrophages are the part of your immune system that eats bacterial invaders.
The salmonella bacteria don’t like being eaten by macrophages though. They protect themselves by putting poisons into your macrophages.
The professor has helped discover how this process works and she is attempting to harness the power of salmonella for good, not evil!
You see, if salmonella are so good at invading macrophages and killing them, they can also be used to invade macrophages and help them.
We can modify salmonella to make it deliver medicine to macrophages. This could do a number of things.
It could protect against auto-immune diseases like HIV. It could also super charge the immune system to assist the fight against other bacterial infections. These two things are some of the most sought after effects in medicine right now.
HIV is a huge problem throughout the developing world, so the interest in that is obvious.
The second effect, of boosting the immune system is even more amazing in my opinion.
Bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, STIs, and many others are currently treated with antibiotics. But bacteria can evolve and become immune to these antibiotics.
Researchers can come up with new antibiotics, but in a few years the disease will have evolved immunity to it again.
But what if you treated the disease just by making the immune system better? The bacteria can still evolve past this, but it takes much longer to do that than to develop antibiotic resistance. Possibly long enough that the disease can be eradicated entirely? That would be astounding.
While my original goal was to get entrance into a PhD program, working on making people immune to disease doesn’t sound that bad either. I think I’ll be quite happy at Sac State.