I have an unusual question. I have been asked to write a piece for non-scientists that addresses some of the issues around the public acceptance of biotechnology and the usefulness of it now and in the future. One of the issues out there for the general public seems to be crossing species barriers.
Currently I am musing on including an example that shows an alignment of a handful of proteins to demonstrate how similar they can be across species. I think that might be a nice visual thing for people who haven't seen an alignment before to understand. And yet how the variations don't carry any "speciesness" per se. What I mean is that a zebrafish circadian clock gene put into yeast doesn't make the yeast a fish. (Yes, I know you get that, but out in the world there seems to be some confusion on this point).
I'm not sure this will end up being the direction I take--I'm trying to connect to some good examples that people might grok without too much work on the reader's part. But I've toyed with a couple of other ideas as well and those might still be the direction I end up going.
I'm looking for some good examples. And I'm being deliberately vague on what I need to generate further discussion and ideas to see where that goes. And also because I'm not entirely firm that this is a good plan....
What I'd like to know from anyone are any suggestions on any one or more of these points:
- What is the most conserved protein you are familiar with? Could it be a good story? (A couple of the ones I've looked at already are pretty boring or would require more words than I can afford to explain what they are.)
- Do you know of a good story of a conserved protein story you've heard from other scientists?
- Have you seen one example work really well for non-scientists?
- Do you have other ideas of a way to get this across? Or bad ways to have done this?
- Would a more medical example be good? Or maybe something with beer yeast as a gentle and funny way to lead in to the conversation?
I don't need every detail, I'm willing to do the legwork on the backstory, but UniProt IDs and leads on some interesting papers would be handy as well.
Random additional thoughts are also welcomed.