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Revelations on International Pathology Day at the Wellington campus

Tuesday, 19 December 2017 3:31pm

Wellington campus Pathology Department Laboratory Technician Jane Anderson shows Research Administrator Tina Uiese (left) and Research Advisor Kate Sloane (centre) how to extract DNA by mixing saliva with salt and clear dish washing liquid, heating, and adding alcohol.

Ricardo Batista checks out his blood type on International Pathology Day.

Wellington campus systems engineer Ricardo Batista, took time out from investigating the innards of computers to find out more about what made him tick from colleagues in that campus’ Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine on International Pathology Day.

He rated finding out his blood type through a surprisingly “quick and easy” process in the laboratory as the highlight. And he was rather relieved to discover that his blood type – O positive – was “fairly universal”.

Ricardo, along with about 25 work colleagues, also learnt how to extract his own DNA using kitchen science at the 15 November open day for Wellington staff. An extraction solution of water, salt and dishwashing liquid was heated in a test-tube with his saliva, then alcohol was added. The DNA could then be seen as it escaped from the cells, forming long strands.

"Patients don’t see us, yet we are the specialist they consult most often. On average every adult has 10 tests a year diagnosed by a pathologist."

The open day was a great opportunity to reveal something of “the hidden science that saves lives every day by helping doctors to make the right decisions,” says Associate Professor Diane Kenwright, Head of the Wellington campus Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.

“Patients don’t see us, yet we are the specialist they consult most often,” Associate Professor Kenwright says. “On average every adult has 10 tests a year diagnosed by a pathologist.”

“We investigate the causes of diseases, how and who gets them – diseases like TB, skin infections, heart disease, and cancer. We want people to know what causes disease, how they can prevent it if possible, and when to seek treatment.”

Visitors were also treated to a guided tour of the most important specimens in the pathology museum and talks on diseases, DNA and the consumer, and more.

This is the third time the Department has opened its doors to mark International Pathology Day. The Department also hosts school visits every week, runs science labs in Te Reo Māori, and is a member of SciHub Wellington (supporting science teachers in schools).