TSC What?

So far I’ve given you the basic idea about what it exactly is that I study, but now I’ll go a little bit more in depth.  WARNING: THE MATERIAL WHICH YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ MAY, AT TIMES, SEEM KINDA COMPLICATED.  IF YOU BEGIN TO EXPERIENCE ANY SYMPTOMS OF STRESS OR FRUSTRATION RELATED TO THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF THIS RESEARCH, REMEMBER TO REMAIN CALM AND FOLLOW ANY OF THE EXCITING LINKS WHICH I WILL PROVIDE.  Doing this should help you gain an understanding of exactly what I research and what implications it may have in the scientific world and possibly your own.

This figure shows how some cells change into other types of cells.  My research involves the mesenchymal cell in the upper middle changing into a chondrocyte, a cell that makes up the cartilage in your body. (Figure taken from the Biochemical Journal; use protected by Fair Use)

I study genes, which are sections of DNA that tell your cells which proteins to make and when.  Through chemical interactions, these proteins can communicate with one another, allowing your cells to respond to changes in your surroundings, carry out whatever tasks those cells may have, and trigger massive changes in cell form, especially during the early stages of cell development.

In particular I study a gene called TSC1 and its related gene TSC2, both of which must be functional for a well-developed skeleton to form.  TSC1 and 2 (which stand for Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 1 and 2) are extremely important in the healthy maintenance of bone tissue, and something as small as a single mutation in either gene can cause the disease known as tuberous sclerosis, a disease which causes small, benign tumors to appear throughout the body.

This illustration shows just a few proteins that we know TSC1 and TSC2 work with.  Cellular pathways are difficult to analyze; I do it by deleting genes and seeing what happens! (Figure provided by Liu Lab)

By studying TSC1 and TSC2, I am hoping to gain a better understanding of just how exactly the protein that the gene encodes functions in the cell and how it interacts with other proteins within the cell.


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