Patrick Willis can help students understand developmental biology

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A professor used 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis to help students understand developmental biology.

How many folks here visit Reddit on a semi-regular basis? I try and get over to Reddit at least once a day to check out the 49ers sub-Reddit, as they come up with some of the coolest random stuff out there. While Twitter is my go-to place for breaking 49ers news, Reddit is great for memes, random photoshopping and other assorted randomness.

I was poking around yesterday, and came across one of the more random 49ers things I've seen in some time. Reddit user DrSAR posted a thread titled "My developmental biology professor knows why Patrick Willis is such a beast", and linked to this picture:


I was poking around in the comments, and a molecular biologist (user lineskogans) said he would respond as follows:

Well first of all, we're clearly going to utilize the PW mouse as our experimental model. There is no way anyone wants to be tinkering around with the real Patrick and mess anything up with our boy. Lord knows we need him as Bowman recovers.

The PW mouse will be used to prepare cloned descendants and prepare a knock-out specimen that will have all the rest of PW's attributes, less the specified gene that we are questioning. Since this is taking place in a fairytale land where mice play football and have human genomes we will get some more football playing mice and have both the PW mouse and the PW-BMG4(knock-out) mouse compete where they will be compared to each other and to regular football mice as to their linebacking skills. This will provide us with our experimental sample and both positive and negative controls for comparative analysis.

As for other methods, utilization of RNAi complementary to PW's BMG4 gene to interfere with it's expression in the PW mouse clone could be substituted for the knock-out method. Luckily I live near the University of Utah where Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi pioneered knock-out technology, so I prefer that method due to the locally and readily available expertise. A dissection of the dentate gynus in the PW mouse would likewise be noteworthy, especially after treatment with immunofluorescent antibodies specific to the BMG4 gene product or perhaps a Gfp luminescence assay after a splice and clone of said reporter into one on the BMP4 gene cluster. Really there are a myriad of ways to detect and qualify expression levels of said gene and correlate them to linebacking performance, but this is just off the top of my head.

The original poster, DrSAR, said:

I said RNA in situ hybridization to identify when and where the gene is transcribed in PW compared to wild-type. Also, experimental ectopic expression of the gene in the wild-type to see if over expression could create another beastly linebacker.

I can honestly say I don't have a clue what any of that means. I started to google it, and it just made my head hurt. Do we have any molecular biologists, or other assorted folks who can explain this in English? It's pretty random, but I still thought it was kind of cool. I recommend keeping an eye on the 49ers sub-reddit. We'll get a lot of it over here, but there is some random cool stuff.

And if you're every really bored at work, one of my favorite sub-Reddits is Animals Being Jerks.

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