Campus News

Featured Academic News Story: Hadley Horch, DNA Sharpshooter

Story posted July 06, 2004

It takes a certain appreciation for the bizarre to be a DNA sharpshooter.

Take Hadley Wilson Horch, an assistant professor of biology and neuroscience at Bowdoin. Her daily rounds include a repugnant swipe into a bin filled with crickets, the chief organism of her genetic research. Under a dissecting microscope, she extracts from the crickets nerve-cell clusters that contain auditory neurons, which she breaks up into individual cell bodies. Horch then mixes trace amounts of gold dust with DNA-encoding fluorescent jellyfish protein. She loads this micromix into tiny tubing and cuts it into half-inch "bullets," which she loads into a handheld plastic biolistic gun.

Aiming her gun at the Petri dish of auditory neurons, Horch takes aim and "blasts, blasts, blasts," she says.

Hopefully, the gilded blast will be sufficient to transfer some of the DNA into the cricket neurons. If successful, this transfection will cause the cells to become fluorescent, making them wonderfully visible under Bowdoin's powerful, confocal microscope -- one of only a handful in use at a teaching institution in the Northeast.

To learn more about Hadley Horch's research, read the full story on Bowdoin's Academic News site here.

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