December 5, 2012

All Aboard For A Crash Course On Rat Genomics

I’m of two minds as I travel by train across the breadth of England to the conference on Rat Genomics at the Moller Centre at Cambridge. On the one hand, I am watching the beauty of countryside that has been civilized for centuries. And on the other, I am headed to a get together of academics who are on the forefront of the science of genetics that will have far reaching effects on the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. I am struck by the fact that I am in a country that can be both the land of Shakespeare and the land that is comfortable being on the cusp of scientific advancement.

I have to be completely honest: I really don’t know what to expect or what I will learn by attending.  There is a bit of apprehension. There is a bit of anxiety. There is a bit of excitement. This is my first of what I hope will be many firsthand accountings on behalf of My goal is to take what seemingly, on the outside, seems like a topic that borders on both the heebie-jeebies and yawnworthiness and present the information in such a way that is both entertaining and informative.  The next two days will be a baptism in fire for this writer on how to approach this topic and succeed in my goal.

In my pre-trip research, I have learned that the meetings and presentations are being hosted by the Wellcome Trust Scientific Conference. Their work, performed previously, has begun to map out the genome of the rat.  Why is this important, you may ask? The rat, surprisingly enough, has a similar genomic structure to humans. By mapping and researching the rat genome, scientists will be able to adopt better strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases in humans.

When I had spoken to colleagues and friends prior to my trip, I received much the same reaction from many. They all seemed to act like perhaps I had drawn the short straw on assignments. That they, like myself, are ignorant to this field of study was most probably the cause for this reaction. Though I am going into this week with only a glancing knowledge of what is to be discussed, the importance of the scientist’s and researcher’s work is not lost on me.

In addition to a couple of exclusive interviews and articles for the main site, I will also dispatch a few blog entries each day to touch on things of interest that I heard and learned at the different presentations. But for now, I’m enjoying the journey by rail that has been lost in the United States. I’m enjoying getting to see much of this beautiful and aged and industrial and metropolitan and rural land.

Image Credit: LockStockBob / Shutterstock

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