Lost in Durham – A Scouser’s tale of Science

Two blog posts in the space of a month? You lucky readers you!

Recently, as part of the BBSRC DTP experience, I went on lab rotation to the wonderful Durham University, where I spent 4 days working with my third supervisor, the legendary Prof (uncle) Roy Quinlan. Roy and his former PhD student, and my new favourite former PhD student, Fred gave me the opportunity to learn how to extract a lens basement membrane from a cow eye (see videos below). While super squeamish at first, with all the blood and what not, it was amazing to get the chance to learn such a cool and useful technique from one of the leading lens scientists in the world! “But why is this such a cool technique?” I imagine I’d hear you ask if it was in fact possible for me to hear you through a computer screen as you read this blog.

The len’s basement membrane is quite a unique basement membrane, as it comprises only one cell type, in addition to being one of the thickest basement membranes in the body. This is particularly useful as we believe we can decellularise this basement membrane and use it to culture our Pierson syndrome cell models on, providing an ex vivo model of the basement membrane. Another cool aspect of using cow eyes for this model is that the animals were already being used for meat, so no part of the animal has went to waste!

After many, many goes, and the wonderful patience of the lovely Fred, I successfully managed to extract the basement membrane from the cow lens. I was also able to decellularise the lens surprisingly easily! I’d like to thank the lovely Quinlan lab for helping me out while I was in Durham and helping me take some really useful skills back to Liverpool, with special thanks to Roy (for organising the trip), Fred (for showing me the ways of cow dissection), and Alexia (for being super friendly to a weird scouser and showing me around, and also being camera woman for the videos above!).

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Another Brucey Bonus point, I couldn’t have went to Durham on a more Christmassy weekend! I drove up in the middle of a snow blizzard, so Durham was a winter wonderland for the weekend I was there. While there, I purchased the newest member of the Hamill Lab at the Durham Christmas Markets. I know Derek the Reindeer will play a huge role in keeping me sane during my PhD!

Derek the Reindeer
Welcome to the lab Derek!

So that was my weekend in Durham! It was a fabulous five days or so, and I look forward to many more days in the Quinlan lab!

Thanks for reading science homies!

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