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Biology

DNA autoradiogram in a petri dish (Photo Rafe Swan/Alamy)
Spring 2019

Genomics fills a gap for adoptees

If you have gene variants such as BRCA or Lynch Syndrome, both of which may lead to difficult-to-treat cancers, “you’ve noticed it,” says Thomas May, an endowed professor of bioethics in Washington State University’s College of Medicine. “Noticed” is May’s measured way of saying that “multiple people in your family have died” of breast or colon cancer.

“Unless you don’t have access to family health history,” May adds.

One of the primary diagnostic tools available to doctors is family medical history. Breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions are often genetic. Knowing that a parent had a disease is important information … » More …

Genetically modified pig. Photo Luke Hollister
Winter 2018

Pork futures

Pig 135 snuffles and grunts inside his pen. Jon Oatley reaches through the bars to pet the more than 500-pound genetically modified animal.

“People have this image in their head of a pig with deformities, but they’re just normal pigs,” says molecular biologist Oatley ’01 MS, ’04 PhD as he rubs the pig’s ears.

The enormous, three-year-old pig is one of a handful bred by Oatley, director of WSU’s Center for Reproductive Biology, and his team to be surrogate fathers. Through genetic tinkering, Pig 135 is able to produce sperm that contains the genetic material of another pig rather than his own. This … » More …

Winter 2018

Build a bee hotel

Help some local pollinators by building your own bee hotel.

There are plenty of tutorials and guides out there. Below are a few easy steps to quickly building a home for solitary bees, followed by links to some other guides.

With a craft knife, cut both ends off the plastic bottle to create a cylinder.
Make your lengths of bamboo, grass or reeds 3 cm shorter than the bottle to protect them from rain – use sharp garden clippers to trim them. Bees can’t burrow through the knots in bamboo, so avoid lengths with too many knots.
Use sandpaper to smooth the … » More …

Doug Walsh
Winter 2018

Gallery: Bee beds and hotels

A unique look at the interplay between wild North American bees, European bees, and Washington farmers.

Photographer Zach Mazur ’06 highlights the apian stars of Southeast Washington’s thriving alfalfa seed industry. The spare yet stunning landscape is home to millions of native alkali bees which, together with leafcutter bees, make Walla Walla County one of the nation’s top producers.

Read more about wild bees and pollinators in “Plan Bee.

micrograph of a tissue matrix scaffold
Winter 2018

A new dimension to fighting cancer

Any good strategist knows that an accurate map can win a battle. If your enemy is cancer, a chaotic and elusive foe that changes its environment, finding a new dimension to examine a tumor can make all the difference when developing treatments.

Like all scientists and doctors looking for ways to defeat cancer, Weimin Li wants to better understand how cancerous tumors grow and adapt. His innovative technology using 3-D tissue culture “scaffolds” delivers a far more relevant environment to research the deadly disease.

It’s a fight that Li has fought on many fronts. He spent seven years practicing oncology in China and witnessed … » More …