Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Work it like your brain is on a slide and you're dead

I am working with Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly, as a model organism in my latest lab rotation-- and all models love to be photographed.

Unfortunately, these models can't blow lines of coke off make-up counters and enjoy bottles of Dom prior to their 30 seconds of strut time. My models have their brains ripped out through their mouth holes with metal forceps. That's what my people want to see-- not their tiny bodies, but their tiny brains.

But while they're waiting in the glass vials I make sure to play Prince, or whatever it is fashion models enjoy walking too, just for irony's sake. Here is an image of fruit fly larvae waiting in the wings, sans wings:
Hopefully this gives somewhat of a sense of how big they are. If not, they are about the size of a bold 12 pt Arial "l". Their brains are probably about 1/20th of that, and I take pictures of them using a digital camera hooked up to a Zeiss Axioplan light microscope.
This brain is magnified 4x, and yes, it does resemble a dick and balls with some other stuff. The dick is the nerve chord, the balls are the two brain hemispheres, and the other stuff is the two eye disks. You can see that parts are brown in color. That is because I stained the brain with an antibody-conjugated dye that is specific only to the axons of photoreceptor neurons in the eye disk. The eye disks are the developmental precursors of actual fly eyes-- larvae don't need eyes because they just live in their slushy food and eat their way around, kind of like little Roseanne Arnolds. Here is a 40x magnified image of the axons that connect the photoreceptor cells to the brain hemispheres:
In this case, they're not connected because someone's touch isn't delicate enough for micro-histology.

While the axons are lovely, I am most interested in the position of the nuclei of these cells. I won't tell you why because I don't feel like it, and I was taking these pictures mostly for practice and it turned into more of an aesthetic adventure than anything truly informative. So I also used a stain that stains only the nuclei of photoreceptor cells, and here is a 10x magnified image of the two eye disks separated from the brain and bespeckled with nuclei:

And here are just two lovely images:

I'm glad that I'm able to see these things, and show them to you as well. I'll make sure to post the vacation photos soon-- the vacation where they go to the beach and get their brains torn out through their mouth holes with metal forceps.


MertMengelmier said...

Every picture in that last post made me vomit - continuously - as if reading the grossest thing I've ever tasted, over and over again. Thank you, I'm skinny again.

Lena Webb said...

Everything about what you just said indicates that you are a 100%-pure LADY.

jenovus said...

You are a lucky lady, taking pictures with the microscope. I guess I will be able to post some of my x-ray diffraction patterns (much) later, but it is just not the same. As of now, I have been washing lots of glassware of such byzantine construction that I can see no sure use for it. So, once again you are the best, and I am thwarted by you in the passive voice.

Lena Webb said...

No one said you *had* to be an inorganic chemist! I just picked molecular and cell biology so that I can keep doing the hard drugs.

...But I am taking "techniques in high-resolution cryoelectron microscopy" this semester, which is just a few Fourier transformations away from x-ray diffraction...Right? RIGHT?? I'm pretty much going to fail.