PLC students hunt for melanoma gene in Perkins labs

May 2017 - by Tahnee Teo

A class of 28 Presbyterian Ladies College (PLC) students were on the lookout for a deadly mutation obtained from the genes of two melanoma patients and one non-mutated gene patient, when they experienced a hands-on scientific workshop in the Lotterywest BioDiscovery Centre.

The focus for the student’s research was highly relevant, as one in 30 Australians are diagnosed each year with this potentially fatal cancer that develops in the skin’s pigment cells.

They started their day learning about polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which amplifies small sections of DNA to quantities big enough for researchers to work with.

“The Lotterywest BioDiscovery Centre is a world class specialised teaching laboratory, offering students and community members an opportunity to work with the latest technology whilst completing experiments on living cells using the same scientific tools found in the Perkins labs”, explains Perkins Director Professor Peter Leedman.

“Furthermore, being able to work in a functional research laboratory offers students a unique opportunity to acquire a glimpse into the world of medical research. We ensure that their work is linked directly to the school curriculum as they tackle activities that are relevant to current research,” said Professor Peter Leedman.

The PLC students set up a reaction in the laboratory that enabled them to analyse genetic material and identify the mutation using gene sequencing.

PLC Science teacher Lana Salfinger said she was impressed with the BioDiscovery Centre and was pleased to see the students enjoying themselves and acquiring practical knowledge.

The year 12 students were led by five Perkins medical researchers, who helped them better understand how mutations can be identified.

Stella Honey a Year 12 student said “I now have a better understanding of the steps involved in PCR, it has been really useful to apply the knowledge gained from the classroom to a real life situation in the melanoma experiment”.

“Seeing the reaction in real life has really helped to interpret the content of what we learn in class, I really enjoyed the work we did here today,” said Maddie Olson.

Caitlyn Brennan added “being in the laboratory and using all the equipment which we don’t have access to at school has made it so much easier to understand, it has really opened my eyes being here today. I thought being in a laboratory would be boring, but it has been so interesting”.

Perkins Director, Professor Peter Leedman, said the BioDiscovery Centre aims to engage, educate and inspire the next generation of medical researchers.

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