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Modifying DNA with Cambridge University

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How can we modify the DNA of bread wheat to improve yields for future food security?

Last week our A Level Biologists joined a Professor and six Doctors from the University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University and Leicester and the University of Cambridge at the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge. The aim of this joint university event was to both inform students about the importance, possibilities and pitfalls of this research, whilst giving them hands-on experience of some of the techniques used.

The day started with a computer simulation of meiosis, in which the students could create unique individuals based on the recombination of alleles and genes. Then followed the highlight of the day, students taking part in their own gene editing experiments using CRISPR-Cas 9 technology, something only available to undergraduate students normally.

Next was the separating of DNA fragments using gel electrophoresis, followed by the staining of anthers to see chromosomes actually undergoing meiosis.

The day finished with small group discussions led by one of the organising scientists, giving the students an opportunity to discuss the ethical issues and regulations around gene editing.

The experiments we took part in were complex but interesting, and gave me a short insight into doing Biology at a university level” – student Oliva

I enjoyed doing the different practicals and experiments as I found them really interesting from using more complex equipment” – student Tilly

I enjoyed the experiments and asking questions about peoples careers, what they do etc. I also enjoyed the activity on the computer” – student Floella

It sounds like our future scientists had an amazing day, we would like to thank the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge and Leicester for organising this event – we can’t wait until next year!