“Out of the darkness”

31 07 2015

Some details not quite right, but overall Carole and I like this account of our equine anhedonia work.

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End of an era (again)

31 07 2015

Another big project was brought to a close last week: we ended Mike‘s differential housing trial. All the remaining micenow very old (several have succumbed to old age already) — were again rapidly killed with Maka’s expert cervical dislocation.

The differential housing didn’t have the effects we expected (varying degrees of anxiety/calmness), making this one of the most expensive research mistakes I have ever made (bye bye many many $10s of thousands…). However, the mice did have had different opportunities to exercise for their entire lives: some had no wheel, some had a metal one, and some had a plastic wheel (used the most). Within groups there was a lot of variation too, with some mice with wheels choosing to run 50% of their time, others barely stirring (and now distinctly fat as a result). So, we offered two colleagues in Human Health and NutritionDavid Ma and David Wright — the chance to take whatever samples they wanted, since to have so many mice with such well-recorded lifetime histories of differential exercise must be pretty unusual. They were very keen and sent two well-organized teams to collect tissues: brains, muscle, fat… all got whisked away for preservation, later analysis, and, we hope, fabulous publications…

There are just 8 cages left now, running in the last phase of the last motivation trial. Aside from that, the two rooms are now very, very quiet and empty.


Hot little paws

30 07 2015

So far in the “do hot mink need more floor space?” part of our cage size study, it seems as though mink reliably sprawl belly up when hot, with their hot little feet exposed to the air (although on the wire mesh floors they’re living on, belly down would really work just as well for cooling; my hunch is this is an evolved response).

It’s actually been very hot for them these last couple of days – up to 30 degrees: great for the study in that that’s past their thermoneutral zone, but miserable for them, and for poor Maria who’d had to watch them pant. At the end of each day she’s started spraying them with water so they can use the evaporative cooling that they would in nature. The first time, they were slightly alarmed; the second time, they came up to the front of the cages for more.

The little hot feet of mink

Yay! Danielle made a mistake!

30 07 2015

Danielle and I were thrilled to find out that she’d screwed up a protocol last week. If she hasn’t, we’d have been mystified as to what to do.

She’d worked really hard with Kathryn and Elena‘s student Kelsy to pilot some IHC staining of the mouse brains: together they’d tried our new antibody solutions in a range of dilutions, on slides that were basically straight out the freezer or re-fixed in PFA, to start to get a feel as to what would work best (IHC being something of a black art). The result? All the gossamer-like slices became if anything even more invisible than before.

We were racking our brains (and trying not to panic), when Elena had the wise advice: “anything that wrong suggests to me a whole step got missed out”. She was right: Danielle realized that in transcribing and merging the various elaborate protocols, she had missed one innocuous-sounding but totally crucial step involving peroxide. It was quite ridiculous how pleased we were!  “Take II” happens on Friday.

Why Zagreb?

28 07 2015

Me crowing So now I can reveal why Jonathan and I had a holiday in Zagreb just now (which actually turned out to be a great choice): I was getting the UFAW medal at the UFAW conference. And David Mellor was awarded one too.

At the ceremony, amongst the nice words read out by UFAW’s director Robert Hubrecht (below right), these particularly stood out for me:

“according to a colleague, while at Guelph she has amassed a group of students who make up the most enthusiastic and productive group in the Department”.  : )

Me and Robert Hubrecht

Maria’s ‘ear worm’

27 07 2015

Maria had this stuck in her head all day, working with the mink in a room that nearly reached 30 degrees (= great for our project, but tough on the poor mink). She swears she kept her clothes on though.

Who am I?

26 07 2015

One of the two mink in this cage sprawls in his elevated tunnel to allow Maria to ID him using his chin markings. Who is he: 119 or 120?