Oklahoma Foundation Grant Buys Medical Tech for Schools

Muskogee High School teachers, armed with a $2,800 Education Foundation of Muskogee grant, have recently purchased new biomedical lab equipment, including an incubating water shaker, heat blocks and more.

by Cathy Spaulding, Muskogee Phoenix / February 21, 2020

(TNS) — Muskogee High School junior Karen Cruz said she’s discovered how DNA affects her taste buds.

“If you’re a bitter taster, most things will taste more bitter than usual,” Cruz said. “I’m not a bitter taster, so it’s not as bitter as it would be for them.”

Cruz and her classmates made such discoveries while using new lab equipment in their medical intervention class.

MHA biomedical teacher Carrie Cotten bought the equipment with a $2,800 Education Foundation of Muskogee grant. The new devices include an incubating water shaker and a heat block.

The water shaker agitates liquid samples, Cotten said. “When we use it in a lab, we’d usually use it to grow yeast or bacteria.”

A heat block can be used to multiply DNA samples, she said.

“We put them in there, and we’d heat them up or cool them down,” Cotten said. “How we’d use them together is PCR, where we amplify (copy) DNA.”

Cotten said medical intervention class recently used it to find a “gene of interest.”

“They did a PTC lab, where they were analyzing their own genetics” to see if they were heterozygous or homozygous for a gene — if they had two copies of it or one copy of it,” Cotten said.

Junior Lauren Torres, said the ability to taste bitterness depends on whether a certain gene is heterozygous or homozygous.

Phuong Nguyen explained: “Heterozygous means you only carry one of the genes, so you won’t taste it. But if you’re homozygous you carry two copies of the genes.”

Cotten said the varying temperatures in the heat block help genes multiply, and more samples can be taken.

“Once we get that, we would run it through gel electrophoresis,” Cotten said. “We would take a sample, and then we would put it in a gel, hook it up to electricity, and it would pull it through, like a car battery, then put it under a UV light and look at it.”

Cotten said her first-year class used the equipment for crime scene investigation.

“They have DNA at the crime scene, and they’re using it to compare to our suspects,” she said.

Cruz said her class has used the heat block “to track down to see who has a disease.”

“It helps us examine DNA, and we can compare different patients to see who is more capable of getting what,” Cruz said.

Nguyen said the equipment seemed complicated at first because it was so new. He said using the devices since has become “like second nature.”

“It’s a lot easier to use,” he said.

Cotten said biomedical science is similar to Advanced Placement, which helps them earn college credit in high school.

“They take a test at the end of the semester, and if they score high enough on the test, they can take it to their college and their college can give them credit for it,” she said. “It’s part of the career-tech program, so all throughout the program they learn about different health careers they could go into. The stuff we use here in the lab is the same stuff they use in the real world.”

Nguyen said he seeks to become a heart and lung surgeon. Cruz is working to be a nurse. Torres wants to be a medical examiner.

“We’ve been in this program for three years, so we’re committed at this point,” Torres said.

©2020 the Muskogee Phoenix (Muskogee, Okla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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