Labcoats, micropipettes, hot blocks and a thermocycler – these were just some of the things ten eager researchers between the age of 11 and 17 could call their own for a day.
The students were participants of a summer school run by the “Tschira Jugendakademie” (a project of the “Klaus Tschira Foundation”) and were – for one of their projects – hosted by the European Learning Laboratory for the Life Sciences (ELLS) at EMBL.
The event centred around the hereditary disease haemochromatosis – a condition which increases the level of iron stored in the body manifold and may lead to symptoms such as fatigue, diabetes, and liver or heart failure if untreated. The genetic basis of the disease is a tiny change in the DNA sequence of affected people – a point mutation on chromosome 6.
After an introduction to the topic, the young researchers started their own experiments at the Training Labs of the EMBL Advanced Training Centre. In a series of experimental steps, they used restriction enzymes (molecular scissors which cut DNA of a certain sequence) to analyse the DNA of three fictitious people in order to identify the person(s) suffering from haemochromatosis.
The ELLS team greatly enjoyed introducing this lively and enthusiastic group to the science of genetic disorders and wishes the participants a successful start to the new school year.