9th Graders Explore DNA at Biogen
By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Ibrahim
On Wednesday, April 26th, the 9th graders traveled to a biotechnology company in Cambridge called Biogen. The company works to find cures for diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's.
First, they learned about how segments in DNA can be altered. This happens through a technology called CRISPR, which is essentially a gene-editing tool. It takes a part of the DNA out and replaces it with a synthetic copy. They also learned about how DNA can break apart at a specific temperature and come back together at another temperature.
In order to learn more, the students took some of their own cheek cells and put them in a PCR machine, which stands for “polymerase chain reaction.” This heats and cools the DNA automatically. DNA is made up of two helixes, and the PCR machine splits these up. Then, it creates a synthetic copy of the DNA and binds it to the original helix. The machine did this many times. With the students’ cheek cells, it showed how much bitter each student could taste.
The trip was especially interesting because the 9th grade is taking Biology this year. Going to Biogen taught them a lot, particularly about DNA. 9th grader Zac reflected on the experiment, saying, “It was interesting to learn about genetics at a renowned biotechnology company. It was a wonderful experience.”