One week in Manolis Fanto’s research group

By Wesley Tizzard

During my summer placement at Manolis Fanto’s group, under the supervision of Olga Baron in the Clinical Neuroscience department in the Maurice Wohl building, I have worked on the molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration by polyglutamines, mainly using Drosophila as a model system. Specific interests were:

1) The deregulation of the autophagic catabolic pathway.

2) The importance of cell cycle stimulation in post-mitotic neurons.

3) The role of glial cells in mediating toxicity for the nervous system.

They use a range of innovative techniques including genetic manipulation and they also use electrophysiological studies.

During my two-week placement, I shadowed a number of different scientists and got the opportunity to help with experiments and assays. For instance, I contributed to the dissection of larvae and helped make a crawling assay (of larvae too) controlling the number of contractions per minute so that later on, a statistical test could be done. These experiments were very useful in order to continue the exploration of the deregulation of the autophagic catabolic pathway.

Additionally, I got the opportunity to explore the eyes of fruit flies (Drosophila) under the microscope. With Adel’s help, I explored fruit flies with Huntington Disease and examined its effects on the photoreceptors in their eyes. This was very challenging because the process was very hard and long. First, you need to select the flies you want and then cut out one of their eyes. Once you have different eyes you need to put them into a resin mold, which has been prepared beforehand. It is a long process because after the last step you need to cook them in an oven overnight. Doing that, you make sure that the resin is hard so you can remove it from the mold. Then you need to trim the resin to remove the parts that avoid you seeing the eye correctly under the microscope. Once you have done that you use a machine that cuts very thin using a diamond blade. This will cut the eye into different thin layers that will allow us to see the photoreceptors of the eye and explore the effects of different genotypes.

Also, I had the opportunity to attend a group meeting on Wednesdays, where everyone got to present to the others the observations of the week and if they need to discard something of the research or to accept any recommendations.

Overall, the experience was great and I learned a lot. Also, I gained new skills that will be very useful for any scientific degree as well as research. Now I am more confident in practical skills such as pipetting and dissection, as well as microscopy analysis.