Leeds pupils sweet on science

Adel Primary pupil Chandrika Abendin, nine, holding a small wooden stick containing the DNA from a strawberry on the end of it.
Adel Primary pupil Chandrika Abendin, nine, holding a small wooden stick containing the DNA from a strawberry on the end of it.
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IT was a bit of fruity fun – but this lesson in extracting strawberry DNA showed youngsters how scientists are fighting cancer.

Year five pupils from Adel Primary School in Leeds saw first-hand the kind of work done by cancer researchers as they helped extract the DNA from strawberries.

Skin cancer researcher Dr Juliette Randerson-Moor, from the Leeds Cancer Research UK centre, visited the school to explain more about how the charity’s experts study DNA from cancer cells to develop more-effective treatments for the illness.

She demonstrated how to extract DNA from strawberries, which have eight copies of each chromosome so are especially suited to the experiment, before the students tried it themselves.

The process involves crushing up the fruit and adding substances which eventually allow the DNA to be separated off.

Dr Randerson-Moor said: “It was wonderful to see young children get excited about science.

“Compared to the amount of DNA we can extract in a lab, a single strawberry yields a huge amount, which made it a very visual and safe way to engage the children. I hope that talking about my work has helped raise awareness that there’s a lot of great research going on in Leeds.”

Pupils were also told of the importance of a healthy lifestyle in reducing the risk of cancer. She explained how being a non-smoker, keeping a healthy weight, being physically active, being sensible in the sun and eating a healthy diet can all lower the risk of the disease.

Her visit was part of National Science and Engineering Week 2011, which runs until Sunday, and aims to celebrate science, engineering and technology.

The event was designed to raise awareness of cancer and to show youngsters how important science is to their lives.

Cancer Research UK spent over £8m last year in Leeds on scientific and clinical research. A new Cancer Research UK centre has opened at St James’s University Hospital.

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