On 28 and 29 June, six Year 12 Biology pupils visited the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to take part in a DNA workshop. The sessions were kicked off with an introduction to parasites and the diseases they cause before the boys carried out a PCR reaction to amplify genetic material which could potentially be a drug target in the organism that causes African Sleeping Sickness. This was followed by a restriction digest of a recombinant plasmid to check if the cloning of another gene had been successful.
A particular highlight was the tour of the insectaries where many disease vectors are reared. One group is working in collaboration with London Zoo to use these blood feeding insects to safely and painlessly take blood samples from their pygmy hippos. All the pupils rose to the challenge of dissecting the tiny sandflies to extract their salivary glands and midguts, where the disease they transmit develops, and the sessions were topped off by a fascinating lecture on the huge successes of the team who have developed, and released in various cities across the world, a mosquito line infected with bacteria that can no longer transmit Dengue.
The pupils enjoyed the two days of hands on research experience in a world renowned academic institution and were inspired by the academics that gave them an insight into how treatments and controls for infectious diseases are developed.