X files science Jay Mone
jmone at MARAUDER.MILLERSV.EDU
Mon Feb 16 09:37:56 EST 1998
When the X files highlights technical procedures, it is always a
subject of intense conversation in our department the next day. The
one episode to which you are referring was a doozy!
First, how might you determine that a protein in a sample is of alien
origin? Well, we know that all proteins on earth are different
combinations of 21 different amino acids. Si if you have a protein
composed of amino acids which are different from the 21 known to be
found in earthly proteins, you might be on to something. Also, in
higher organisms, all amino acids acids are of a specific type, namely
what are called L-amino acids. Some bacteria use D isomers, but it is
unusal. if your mystery protein was composed of D isomers, this would
be quite startling. One might also suspect that alien proteins would
not display immunologic cross reactivity to earthly proteins; that
is, antibodies against earthly proteins would not react with alien
Concerning the Southern that Scully did, we were all very impressed
that she went from an unknown sample of DNA to a final autoradiogram
result in 6 hours, and she looked damn good doing it (much to the
consternation of a female molecular biologist in our department.
Technically, you would need to isolate the unknown DNA, clone
fragments into suitable vectors, and then sequence the fragments.
using the sequences, you could then construct synthetic probes for use
in both Southerns and PCR analysis. This process normally takes
several weeks at best, but then, we don't look as hot doing it either.
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