Institute of Regenerative Cures

My class got to go on a field trip last week.

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All the joys of barely being able to see the tour guide when you’re at the back of the group.

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.

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The entrance hallway with pictures of the cooler discoveries at the Institute.

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.

Where all the research is done!
Where all the research is done!

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!

-GoCorral

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Bois Blanc Island Dinners

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: Food on the Island

Due to popular request (one person) I’ll be going into a little more depth about what food we ate on Bois Blanc Island.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of what we ate. Instead, here’s a nice before and after photo of our rental car’s license plate.

Look at how much dust gets on a car when it drives on Bois Blanc!
Look at how much dust gets on a car when it drives on Bois Blanc!

And now on to the food!

There were seven dinners we had on the Island. Ribs, meatloaf, tacos, kebabs, risotto, lasagna, and one night we went out to Hawk’s.

My wife and I made the risotto. We enjoy making it together a lot.

Risotto is a dish made from rice and broth for those of you who don’t know.

The broth is slowly added to the rice over a low flame. The rice absorbs more and more of the broth until it goes past normal rice consistency into something more like thick stew.

Vegetables and stuff are added to the risotto as well. Carrots, peas, celery, or potatoes.

Spice are welcome as well. Garlic, salt and pepper usually.

Most people add something more substantial like meat as well. My wife is a vegetarian so we opted for cheese and mushrooms instead.

It tastes pretty much like what you’d expect, thick rice stew. We really like it!

Risotto seemed a little boring for us to serve on its own. We included a side dish of roasted potatoes covered in honey dijon mustard and my aunts made a salad as well.

We were a little worried that risotto would weird people out but I think it was a success!

The other notable dinners were mostly the meat ones because of what my wife ate instead.

We were forewarned that my grandmother would be making ribs ahead of time. Fortunately, there is an excellent substitute meat product made by Morningstar for ribs. I call them fibs because they are fake ribs.

My wife ate the fibs while everyone else ate the ribs.

My wife made a side dish for herself of macaroni and cheese (her favorite) to replace the meatloaf.

My aunts made my wife some kebabs without chicken for that dinner. Unfortunately most of the vegetarian kebabs were bell peppers which my wife doesn’t like.

The gesture of preparing something especially for my wife to eat was still appreciated. My wife still had plenty to eat with all the other food made by my aunts (salad, leftovers, crackers, bread, etc).

So there it is! A few of the dinners that my family had on Bois Blanc Island.

-Mister Ed

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Arriving to and Leaving from the Island

What Is My Profession?

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I’ve talked about how I work in a lab before, but haven’t gone into specifics.

There’s a bit of background knowledge needed before you can fully understand what I do at my job though.

I work in a research lab which means I’m a scientist. What type of scientist am I? A biologist!

Biology used to be all about plants and animals and stuff, but since the discovery of DNA that’s changed quite a bit.

Studying animals and plants is now referred to as zoology, botany, or ecology.

Biology now almost exclusively refers the study of DNA and other things related to DNA.

You probably remember learning about DNA in school where your teachers described it as the “instruction manual for your body” or something to that effect.

That’s essentially true. DNA does provide the instructions for building everything in your body. But how does it do that?

DNA is kept inside a protective bubble in your cells called the nucleus. When an invader like bacteria or viruses gets into your cells they are cut off from your DNA by the nucleus.

If invaders could get at your DNA they could alter it. These alterations are what make viruses so dangerous. Alterations can also cause cancer.

But with your DNA cut off from the rest of your cell how does it provide instructions?

DNA produces a copy of its instructions called RNA that leaves the nucleus.

RNA goes to something in your cells called a ribosome.

Ribosomes read the instructions from RNA and create proteins.

This is where I got a little confused in my biology classes. Aren’t proteins just one of those things on the nutrition facts labels?

Turns out proteins are responsible for almost all cellular activity your body performs.

Proteins make your cells move, send signals between cells, help your cells digest things, etc. They do everything.

So the whole process is DNA makes RNA which goes to ribosomes which make proteins. Proteins then go on to do everything else.

In both my labs I study the first step, the organization of DNA and how RNA is made from it.

I’ll tell more about each of my labs in a future post.

-Mister Ed