Tomorrow (25th January) is Burns Night; Robert Burns’ birthday and the traditional day of celebration of the poet’s life and work. As regular readers of this blog will be aware, I’m Scottish and prone to occasional bouts of stereotype-fulfilling. Hence I’m hosting a Burns Supper tomorrow night and I’m intending to go full-out with haggis, neeps and tatties, cranachan, irn-bru cocktails and poetry recitals.
This got me thinking about Burns and biochemistry… if Scotland’s most famous poet had dabbled in our discipline would one of his most famous poems have looked rather different? Had Rabbie Burns been aware of the breakthroughs the humble mouse had proffered, would he have re-phrased his ode accordingly? Dr David Meek, writing in the Biochemist back in 2009, imagined so.
I give you ‘To a Knock-Out Mouse’:
Wee fluffy brown-haired knock-out moussie
Sitting in your cage in the animal houssie
You’re the product of scientific inspiration
And careful planning
Followed by genetic stem cell
And neonatal scanning.
I’m truly sorry my next transaction
Is a genomic DNA extraction
That might cause you to recoil in fear
As you see me approach
But I’ll need to clip a biopsy from your ear
And on your territory encroach.
For it bodes on us that we appraise
The outcome of the Cre recombinase –
And check the experiment’s
With our expertise
To ascertain the gene deletion
Between the LoxPs.
Still – you’re blest compared with times
And I’m sure that you would be aghast
To realise that before we improved
Entire tails would be removed
For such geneology.
This method established by the
Curtailed the quality of life
Of three mice, said to
Follow her in agitation,
Whose gene loss led to
But thankfully we’ve great improved
For tails we only take a piece of ear
And so you really can’t to me complain
Of this present visit
Or look at me with such disdain.
You’ll hardly miss it.
So… since this line of rationality
Back to the task that presently engages us
And when our analysis’s carried out
And PCR completed
We’ll then succinctly state without a doubt
The kinase kinase kinase is deleted.
And thus this small and painless amputation
Should magnify my scientific reputation
And data gained from your participation
As you’ll discover,
Its publication both in Cell
And on the front cover.
So moussie in my heart I thank ye
And higher than Burns’ mouse I rank ye
For your instrumental role in studying
nature and bettering health
But, above all, both to ensure
My fame and wealth.