They say that the Great Plains tribes, including the Sioux, wasted no part of the buffalo (see reidsguides for a nice article). Besides the meat, hides were used for clothes, horns and bones used for tools and weapons, bladders for canteens, tails as flyswatters, testicles for baby rattles (!), and dried dung for fuel.
In our lab in Buffalo, we follow the same buffalo mantra. As a part of our genome wide association study (GWAS) on addiction-related traits (see ratgenes.org for more details), we are in the process of testing 1600 rats, in order to determine the genetic locations and genes underlying rodent behaviors associated with addiction. We test them in batches of 100, four batches per year.
But this post isn’t about the behavioral testing, it’s about what happens at the end. Because we are gathering DNA from every subject we test (to be analyzed by Abe Palmer’s lab at UCSD), there is a great opportunity to study the genetic bases of other physiological and anatomical traits as well. Dr. Palmer has connected us with several collaborators, to whom we send we send the various parts of the rats. For example, we send cecum and fecal boli to Dr. John Cryan in Cork for microbiome analysis, blood to Dr. Leah Solberg Woods in Milwaukee for diabetes research, hindlimbs to Dr. Ari Lionikas in Aberdeen for analysis of bone and muscle function, eyes to Dr. Monica Jablonski in Memphis for glaucoma research, baculum to Dr. Matt Dean at USC for sexual selection research, carcasses to Dr. Cheryl Ackert-Bicknell for bone density research, and of course the tails and spleen (for DNA) to Dr. Palmer. We also measure total rat length, retroperitoneal fat weight, kidney weight, parametrial fat weight, and epididymis fat weight for Dr. Solberg Woods.
It’s an enormous amount of work. The Meyerlab would like to thank everyone that helps with this process, including members of Jerry Richards’s laboratory (Tony George, Connor Martin, Keita Ishiwari), our own lab members (Jordan Tripi, Chris King, Nathaniel Roberson, Hailley Pearson, Kyle Pasquariello), and the undergraduates that help out (Natasha Singh, Alex Bartnik, Melanie Glover).
If you’re reading this and are thinking “I would like collaborate with the Meyerlab to study the genetic basis of trait X”, please contact us or Dr. Palmer. The dissections are a big undertaking, but we may be able to collect an organ or take a measurement, especially if you are willing to send a technician to help us do that.