By Dylan Adlard (U6, S)
DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created”, famously said Bill Gates.
On Tuesday, 13 December, the Upper Sixth biologists were taken on an excursion to At-Bristol, a centre of scientific learning in the heart of Bristol. Our primary goal was to sequence a gene within our taste genome to determine whether or not we were genetically programmed to prefer or dislike Brussel sprouts. To extract our DNA, we used our saliva and added restriction enzymes followed by centrifuging.
PCR (polymerase chain reaction) was then conducted, which exponentially amplifies the DNA molecules into millions of copies within five hours. If one is receptive to bitter tastes, the GGCC base sequence in one strand of that gene is present. An enzyme, Hae III, was used to cleave the GG bases from the CC bases, creating two separate strands. Gel electrophoresis was then used to separate the DNA fragments, allowing us to determine our individual genotypes based on the distance that the fragments travelled along the gel.
Luke Knudsen (U6, NH), in particular, enthused that “Being able to use advanced and sophisticated laboratory equipment, such as micro pipettes, was a great experience.”
We also held a spirited debate on the ethics surrounding gene editing, as well as being given time to explore the museum and exhibits.
Leo Shen (U6, S) commented, “I found the excursion interesting and stimulating, as it gave a preview of what a biochemistry undergraduate course is likely to involve”, whilst Zoe Robbins (U6, A) said, “The debate really highlighted issues surrounding genetic engineering and gene editing, and the exhibits opened my eyes to areas of science I have yet to explore.”
A sincere thanks goes to all the biology teachers who organised this worthwhile event.