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How secret conversations inside cells are transforming biology

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I think it is more a discrepancy between textbooks, which keeps things simple and the ongoing research. While mine is only peripherally related to it, we found plenty of evidence for extended crosstalk, which basically surprises no one in the field. 

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This is news to me.  I have been teaching the textbook version for 21 years.  It is about time that the textbooks are now changed. It amazes me that the new science is not incorporated into textbooks sooner. Great find and I will re-read this information. Electron microscopy has been such a useful tool to provide a snapshot of what goes on in cells but the fact that light microscopes have been developed which can provide intercellular interactions "live" is  a most welcome innovation to cell biology. 

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1 hour ago, jimmydasaint said:

This is news to me.  I have been teaching the textbook version for 21 years.  It is about time that the textbooks are now changed. It amazes me that the new science is not incorporated into textbooks sooner. Great find and I will re-read this information. Electron microscopy has been such a useful tool to provide a snapshot of what goes on in cells but the fact that light microscopes have been developed which can provide intercellular interactions "live" is  a most welcome innovation to cell biology. 

I think there is a bit of a disconnect between upper college level and first-year/high school knowledge. The issue is that we got tons of interactions mapped but have not built a simple narrative out of it yet, that can be easily conveyed to students. In addition, fluorescence live imaging and similar techniques have been around for a very long time, but since they are tricky (and often expensive) courses usually only provide hands-on in upper level courses (and sometimes only at the graduate level). Of course, there have been technical improvements (such as new variants of superresolution microscopy), but I think the barrier between textbook and research is less a technical one, but rather the difficulty to create large narratives if bits and pieces are not resolved yet. I.e. we know there are plenty of interactions and various paper have found either some of the mechanisms or figured out that certain disruptions could lead to physiological defects. However, unifying and synthesizing the data is still a bit on the tricky side. If someone intends to re-write a new textbook, it is would be either one of the hideous review-style books, which are not helpful to students (and only sometimes helpful for researchers) or it would be simplified to such a degree that it would not really add anything, except to state that there is more to it.

This is not to be a criticism of teachers (regardless of level), of course. Considering the pace of biological sciences almost all college courses are out of date to various degrees. Unless one intends to build lectures entirely from recent lit (which is basically impossible for the fundamental courses) one have to rely on imperfect narratives and then "rebuild" the student's knowledge for certain elements, once they become relevant. What I do not like that much is the title of these reports, which like to pretend that every incremental improvement of our knowledge is the reveal of some big secret that no one was aware of. These, of course, are just another form of narrative, but I do not think that this is an appropriate description of the actual research progress.

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Hi Charon Y,

I do  try to keep with literature for my Yr 12 and 13 (A level) classes. I also try to incorporate information from papers in these lessons if it is not available in textbooks.  I was not aware that live interactions between organelles have been "seen" for such a long tie.  I did use fluorescent imaging and observed shedding of fluorescent proteins using a confocal light microscope many moons ago.  However, I could not discern the smaller organelles (Golgi apparatus, RER etc...). I realise that parts of narratives that are incomplete are not helpful to students.  However, these can be made available to bright students who are keen for extra extension to the dogma that we teach them and who can accommodate uncertainties. I agree with the misuse of titles to make each scientific discovery into a sensation. 

Thank you for your reply.  I will look up the latest microscopy techniques if you could point me in the correct direction.

 

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Confocal is still the workhorse, but a lot has been done on the mathematical side to get more information out of fluorescence patterns. Unmixing signals has become more reliable. In conjunction with lattice light sheet (LLS) instrumentation 3D live imaging has been conducted with high resolution. Developments such as  Storm (stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy)  allow breaking the resolution limit in brightfield (or PALM for a similar variation). Then there are correlative approaches combining fluorescence microscopy with other methods (e.g. SEM, TEM, AFM) which are quite nice. While there have been some developments on the technical side, many for the more interesting bits are combining physical approaches to improve upon what we can see (e.g. confocal/AFM; confocal SEM). Or the use of deconvolution strategies to resolve details and spectral overlaps. Other methods have been around for a while such as TIRF which also has an important niche. I could go on for days and would actually need time to think what I would really consider to be the most relevant or exciting developments. In addition, there are other analyticla methods such as immuno-affinity mass spectrometry which helps us identifying interactions and so on.

Just as a side note, I think it is great that you try to keep up to date in order to inform your teaching. In my case I have to do it anyway for my research, but find it sometimes difficult to infuse that into lower level courses. As such I imagine it even more challenging (and admirable) to do it on the high school level.

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Thank you for the reply.  I will look up each of the developments.  This is fascinating material.  I am sure you are an inspiring lecturer with your sheer breadth of knowledge.  Please do not leave this Forum. 

Have a good day.

Jimmy

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