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Repurposing 'Cell Biology 2012' for your classroom

“Cell Biology 2012” was the latest guide for journalists who covered the ASCB’s 52nd Annual Meeting in San Francisco. (PIC). To come up with the “Novel & Newsworthy” Top 10 Picks for the press book, the scientist–members of the ASCB’s Public Information Committee “peer-screened” 984 abstracts submitted for presentation in SF. Written up as accessible features, these are stories of real scientific research taking place right now.

Here ASCB Education Committee member and San Francisco Exploratorium staff scientist Karen Kalumuck offers ideas on how to use the “breaking science news” stories from the ”Cell Biology 2012” press book in the undergraduate or high school classroom.

“A Real Cell Phone,” Page 10
Fit a “smart” mobile phone with magnifying optics and you have a real “cell” phone for real-world cell biology in classrooms and beyond
Eva Schmid, Bioengineering & Biophysics, University of California, Berkeley

Students having their first experience with microscopy in high school or college will truly appreciate the opening anecdote about the troubles of writer James Thurber. All of us (students, professors, teachers) have likely spent immense amounts of time following the most fascinating amoeba or protozoan, only to eventually discover (or be told) that the focus of our delight was....an air bubble.

Microscopes are expensive. High schools and colleges often must rely on older, ill-cared for units that don't provide an optimal experience for students. In addition, the microscopy experience tends to be solitary, rather than a shared experience. The promise of a “CellScope” system is making the microscopic world more accessible to more students at any level.

The ubiquity of smart phones, both among students and teachers, provides an opportunity to use this smart phone system to capture high quality images that can be on-screen edited and shared with fellow students via phones or computers.

A challenge in fieldwork can be collecting specimens that have to be returned to the lab for microscopic examination. The “CellScope” system would allow in-field analysis of samples, avoiding lengthy and potentially lethal transport of organisms. 

While the “CellScope” is still under development, the concept suggests what a great tool it could be in any classroom--useful in basic microscopy/cell studies classes, as well as a tool for independent projects and fieldwork.

See the “Live from ASCB” video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDibmOj8MiQ&feature=youtu.be

See ASCB TV’s interview with Eva Schmid on “The CellScope” at:

For more CellScope images and updates, see: http://cellscope.berkeley.edu

“Dr. Boveri's dilemma,” Page 7
Testing Boveri’s century-old hypothesis about aneuploidy and cancer reveals an ancient failsafe mechanism that may help prevent cancer
Mark Burkard, University of Wisconsin

This piece nicely illustrates the role of technology in science--how new technologies can allow us to re-examine old theories with new data leading to entirely new theories or to the refinement or even rejection of old “truths.” It’s also a lovely lesson drawn from the history of cell biology.

This would be a great piece to use while teaching mitosis and the cell cycle - two core aspects of cell biology.  The potential identification of "klerokinesis" as an evolutionary failsafe mechanism is intriguing and should be a nice way to get students thinking about cellular processes relating to the survival of an entire individual. 

“A gene, a protein, a cytoskeletal filament, and a devastating kids' disease,” Page 8
A rare but lethal disease in children, giant axonal neuropathy, is tracked to a failure to degrade intermediate filaments in the cytoskeleton
Saleemulla Mahammad, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

This article connects two core issues in cell biology--genes and their products as they affect cell structure. The connection of the two by a rare but devastating disease creates a compact human-interest story for the student audience that illustrates how powerful genes, proteins, and cell structures are in development. 

Intermediate filaments (IF) have always seemed to be the "least glamorous" of the cytoskeletal elements (at least as they are depicted that way in textbooks). They don't make muscles or pseudopods move. They aren't involved in dragging chromosomes into newly formed cells via mitosis or meiosis. They've almost seemed an afterthought. Yet here us something novel--an overaccumulation of IF materials causes serious disease! Why? And, most texts seem to focus on synthesis of molecules to the (near) exclusion of the importance of protein turnover (likely for lack of space); this provides an excellent opportunity to bring up the role of turnover in normal cell health and function.

--Karen Kalumuck, San Francisco Exploratorium

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