28 March, 2008

Brain Extractions

Surprisingly sticky.

I managed to decapitate the mouse well enough (it was already dead at this point, decapitation was not the primary means of euthanasia [that occurred sometime between putting it to forever sleep and exsanguinating it by means of cardiac puncture]), but skinning its head was quite difficult. Mainly because it was very slippery. You have to sort of peel the skin back (like an orange) until you can see the eyes and then fold it into a handle for yourself to cut through bones. Next you cut across the bone between the eyes, then through the ears to the back of the skull. Then it pretty much pops open once you split the skull down the middle.

But the mouse brain itself? Pale and smooth. A bit larger than I had expected for such a small mammal. Also very dense, it didn't squish very easily (I wasn't trying to squish it into paste [and I didn't], but seeing how much give it had, just gently pinching it a little).

But I don't know. It was sort of profound. There I was, sitting in the lab with another creature's brain in the palm of my hand. As if there was some kind of phylogenetic resonance recapitulating my evolution of my own brain from one similar to that in my hand. Like saying hello to a baby. I would even have to admit that it was kind of cute, so grayish pink, almost like a newborn mouse pup (but less wrinkly). I sat there and looked at it, thinking to myself: "So this is what propelled the little creatures in their cage to climb over each other and twitch their whiskers in alarm each time we manipulated their cage." It was cool.

Perhaps I'll post some sketches of the procedure if I ever remember to draw them.

Although it may appear otherwise, I am not a sick fuck. I respect the animals that we use in science and always feel regret when I am required to euthanize them. But in seeing how they are put together and how all of the organs and systems are connected to one another: that is undeniably cool. And while it is important to remember that laboratory mice are living things that must be treated as such, it is also important that we as scientists be able to speak of them frankly and with all the delighted curiosity that (hopefully) brought us to science in the first place.

06 March, 2008


Gotta start remembering that I have one of these blog things. I got some new software (Propellerhead Reason) and I've been neglecting everything else just to play with it.

Although maybe it would be cool for me to speculate to the molecular biology of vampires, that's not what I'm doing. Instead, this is a short commentary on the morbid-ness of scientists. For example, one of the lab techs told me at lunch that now we were taking brain samples for histology and that it was gross. My immediate response was "Cool! How do we do that?", which led to an explanation of splitting the scalp open, rolling it down off the head, and then cracking the skull and peeling it like an orange. I must learn how to do this myself.

Or, as another example, I just sent an email to the germ-free animal manager asking if we had any uninfected mice that needed culling. Not because I want to go over and slaughter hapless mice, but because I could make good use of their serum for my project and I might as well get it anyway if they're slated to die.

Just saying.