Sunday, June 25, 2006

Where have I gone? (and an update on Nigerian same-sex marriage bill)

Sorry if I've disappeared lately.

I'm working on a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation for funding to explore the anatomy of the sugar-transporting vasculature in plants -- otherwise known by its term-of-art the "phloem."

The word phloem comes from the Greek word phloios, which means bark. The phloem is responsible for transporting carbohydrates, amino acids, and minerals from leaves, where they're produced with energy from the sun, to everywhere else in the plant. On the right is a confocal laser scanning micrograph (CLSM) of an Arabidopsis thaliana (or thale cress) root that has been genetically modified to synthesize a green fluorescent protein (GFP) only in the phloem, marking the path by which "plant food" is moved to the growing root tip. [Image lifted shamelessley from Stadler et al.'s article in The Plant Journal.]

The grant proposal I'm writing aims to light up the phloem of Arabidopsis, but in a more subtle way. In the image to the right, the GFP is just floating around in solution -- I want to tether the GFP to the membranes surrounding the phloem conduits. Doing so would allow me to measure accurate the dimensions of the conduits.

Why bother, you ask? Well, with that data, it will be possible to predict a lot about how the phloem works over long distances. I won't go into details (you can read the abstract of my most recent paper on the subject here), but suffice it to say that if I can convince the funding panel to drop me some cash, then I'd be able to go a long way toward integrating the molecular biology and fluid mechanics of phloem biology, and I'd be able to help answer broad questions about how plants direct resources to different organs at different developmental stages.

My deadline is July 12, so don't expect too much from this blog until then.

A final word, however, and an important one before I semi-disappear:

I have received word from a human rights activist in Nigeria that the Nigerian Federal is in recess until August. My understanding is that if they don't get to the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2006 (pdf) by the fall, it may not get signed into law until well after the presidential election in May, 2007, if at all. I've also heard from others that Archbishop Akinola is plenty p!$$ed that the President Obasanjo hasn't made the bill a higher priority.

Honestly, this is good news. But the good Archbishop gets a black eye unless he changes his position (I don't think he will), and his conservative Anglican supporters in the US get a whole bunch of black eyes for being unable to distinguish an honest civil rights issue from an equally serious theological dispute. Still not a peep from any of them outside of the occassional comment on titusonenine that they have reservations. Shame on them.

Frankly
, I'm kind of excited about the possibility that this bill will go away, at least for a while. There was so much I wanted to write about before that little monstrosity came along.

And finally
, thanks to The Salty Vicar for the link. Stay tuned -- I'm not going away forever.

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