A Fungus Among Your Follicles

I think this is a great teachable moment:

Scientists complete genome sequence of fungus responsible for dandruff, skin disorders from PhysOrg.com

Scientists from P&G Beauty announced that they successfully sequenced the complete genome for Malassezia globosa (M. globosa), a naturally occurring fungus responsible for the onset of dandruff and other skin conditions in humans. Results of the genome sequencing are published in today's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[...]

I mean, think about it. Kids in biology class have a hard time relating to size and scale. You can show them stuff in a microscope, but that is not really a tiny thing, is it? I mean,a microscope is like a funny looking TV that you've got to get really close to in order to see something that, compared to real TV, is rather boring.

But to think about the idea that Malassezia globosa ... a species of fungus ... is a tiny invisible thing you never knew was there, living on your head, causing your dandruff, and that it has a whole genome ... over four thousand genes.

I think what works with this is the following: Tiny things visualized in microscopes or on computer screens have a tininess making them invisible, and a bigness (the microscope, the computer screen) making them visible. But the dandruff causing fungus has an intermediate size scale that we can relate to because we can see it, scratch it, brush it off our shoulders ... the actual dandruff flakes.

Hey, if you are a teacher, try it out in class and see if it works!

More like this

Ever wonder how plasma TV's work? Well, I did, and decided to figure it out! "Traditional" televisions use cathode ray tubes, in which a gun fires a beam of electrons inside a large glass tube at phosphor atoms at the other end. The electrons excite the phosphor atoms, causing them to light up as…
I find it absolutely fascinating that scientists often bother to estimate the effects of diet by feeding controlled quantities of food, especially plant food, to rats to see what happens. For example, there is a common substance in cooked food that, if fed in even modest quantity to rats, causes…
I wrote last week about the dramatic presentation here at  AGBT by Clifford Reid, CEO of new DNA sequencing company Complete Genomics. Reid made grand promises - entire human genome sequencing for $5000 available this year, and the sequencing of a million complete human genomes within the next five…
All of the following stories have one thing in common: They relate to the Nature-Nurture issue. Environment plays key role in children's readiness for school from PhysOrg.com Early school success seems to depend largely on children entering school ready to learn, and many policy initiatives…

I notice that neither you nor any of the other articles about this paper provide a link to the paper itself.

That seems to be because, once again, PNAS has allowed a paper to be publicized BEFORE it is actually available on their site!

That may be true. I didn't even try to find it because the last few times I spent time on that it was wasted time, and in this case, I was literally on my way out the door.