miR-263b and me

I spent the majority of my 20’s in graduate school. Many of my friends received promotions and obtained fancy titles while I spiced up my desk by occasionally changing the post-its around. Both of my brothers went on to graduate education (law, accounting), graduated and started jobs in the time I spent carefully staring at fruit flies at my lab bench. I am not complaining about it. I was incredibly privileged to be paid to learn. After many years of grinding, I reached 2018 which is when I got a journal to publish my work, completed my dissertation, and obtained the right to make others call me doctor in non-medical situations.

I think science should be done as collaboratively as possible. I find it really sad to think about all the research out there that is stuck in limbo because it isn’t publishable. If we could find out about all the experiments that didn’t result in positive results, I think we’d save a lot of time and money. I say all this to convince myself that I’m a reasonable person.

In the past few months, I learned about a paper on miR-263b and circadian behavior. As a nervous scientist, I am always happy to hear when my findings have been replicated by other groups. The bulk of my thesis and my paper was about whether small RNAs (microRNAs) in glial cells (non-neuron brain cell) can affect circadian behavior. After looking at many different microRNAs, I focused on two in particular – miR-263b and miR-274. This is kind of like if you spent years studying Shakespeare, but more specifically the sonnets and even more specifically, 106 and 18. So now, to my grievance…

Here’s part of Figure 2D from my paper

In this experiment, I put miR-262b knockout flies through a behavioral experiment that tells me how rhythmic the flies are in constant darkness. In data presented this way, each little dot represents a single fly. I concluded that the knockout flies are significantly less rhythmic than its control, the heterozygous (flies with half the amount of miR-263b) flies. Side note: we use heterozygous flies as controls because frequently, having even half the amount of something is enough to keep things relatively normal.

The authors of the aforementioned paper also put miR-263b knockout flies through a behavioral assay that lets us see how rhythmic the flies are in constant darkness conditions. They also conclude that flies without miR-263b are less rhythmic than wild-type control flies (first columns vs second columns).

Perhaps the weirdest thing about all this is that these people knew my paper existed because they cited it in the discussion section. There’s one sentence: “A recent study showed that glial inhibition/overexpression of miR-263b disrupted circadian behavior rhythms”. Never mind the repeat experiments, the entire paper reads as if there is no other work on miR-263b in circadian behavior.

I actually find the rest of their paper quite interesting. It’s part of the conflict I feel in trying to assert myself. Is this a big deal? Is this not that bad? Maybe it’s just a small thing. Maybe trying to claim the title of “person who discovered miR-263b can alter circadian behavior” is not worth arguing about. It still feels like years of effort being casually erased. I know that’s a bit dramatic and the greater good of getting results out there is still being served. I guess this is what it is.

*we did try contacting the journal and they ignored us

Pyramid of the Sun

I was sitting on the Pyramid of the Sun last week and I told Shay:

“I never imagined I’d get to do something like this.”

She replied: “yeah, we’re really lucky.”

This structure is located in Teotihuacan, an ancient city outside of Mexico City. It was built around 100 AD. Nearly 2000 years ago, people were walking around and building this incredible structure that I just climbed up. It’s a feeling of belonging I experience in certain places where I am suddenly connected to all who walked those steps before me. From the builders, to the Aztecs, Spaniards, Mexicans, and tourists to me. All of us on different timelines but together in the same place. I know you could say that about a lot of places. Every place really. I was lucky enough to feel it there. Lucky enough to have the means to be there. Lucky to have my best friend with me. I get stuck in my head a lot and forget that I exist outside of myself. I feel lonely in a crowd. On the pyramid though? I’m with all the people before and after me.

Reality Fan Fiction

The big thing in wellness these days is to “be present.” I understand the benefits of that. You don’t want the world to pass you by and then look up and wonder what happened and if you don’t remember, did it matter? It’s also for the super anxious so we don’t spin into a vortex of what ifs and oh nos. Still, the present feels increasingly terrible these days. Every day contain new reminders of individual terribleness and group terribleness. I know. We’re technically safer than we have ever been and I wouldn’t want to have lived in any past times. It’s just that I thought this would feel more like the future times. We appeared to be on a trajectory of increasing comfort (for me anyways). I gained the ability to be married in all 50 states and so I thought not being fired for being in a same-sex relationship would be an obvious thing. Here we are though. I can stay in my liberal bubble and things will mostly be the same but it’s unsettling to travel and look at someone and just wonder if they’d fire you if they were your boss. Anyways, to cope I have doubled down on a genre of media we’ve discovered is actually fan fiction.

It started with the West Wing. I got into watching it after the show ended so it felt nice but not necessarily the alternative reality I’m looking for now. Now, I may be one of 3 people who continues to watch Madam Secretary and will be sad when it ends. A world where intelligence prevails and a key player cares about ethics? That’s luxury. Sure they thew in the hard compromise of sacrificing Afghan women for peace with the Taliban but even that had some strategy. My major gripe with the show is pretending that a third party candidacy is a viable thing (same gripe with Designated Survivor). Speaking of Designated Survivor, in that world there’s a pretty incompetent man who accidentally becomes President and thinks he knows best about everything. At least in that world, the aides appear competent!

I’ve recently discovered the Good Fight. I had to sign up for a whole new thing to watch it. I have to suffer through the same 4 commercials over and over again to keep myself in this world where Diane Lockhart is just as destroyed as I am about 2016. The late night news and grappling with just what the hell to do in these times? It’s delightful. One episode at a time, I watch pretend people with power make small moves to make their world have sense. My misery has found true company here and it’s hidden on CBS all access.