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Meet Xenopus, the African clawed frog

image of the Xenopus course instructors with the African clawed frog
The instructors of the 2024 Xenopus course at CSHL pose with the star of the course, the African clawed frog. Left to right: Rachel Miller, Peter Walentek, Lance Davidson, and Chenbei Chang.
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Sometimes, groundbreaking biomedical discoveries and technology can come from the strangest sources. A perfect example: Xenopus, the African clawed frog. It swims upside down. It’s see-through. And it makes an ideal test subject for studying genes that may cause or help cure diseases in humans. This year, scientists from around the globe once again descended on 鶹ýӳ (CSHL) for our annual course .

“Frogs were the original cloned organism,” says Rachel Miller, one of the course’s co-instructors. “A lot of technological developments that are very popular right now, like genome editing—frogs were the first vertebrate species that this was proven to work in,” adds Peter Walentek, another co-instructor. “Frogs were originally used to define developmental pathways that are important in all aspects of biology.”

Footage of red blood cells flowing in frog gills. From bioluminescence to microsurgery and live imaging, CSHL’s Xenopus course participants learn to use a variety of biology research techniques that are not easily performed in other animals. As a result, they get to see life unfold in real time, from cell division to organ assembly. Video: Vaughn Colleluori and Mustafa Khokha, CSHL Xenopus Course

The first CSHL Xenopus course was held in 1993. Since then, course alums have formed a supportive and tight-knit community, with members worldwide passing on their knowledge to others in the field.

“This course really brings everyone together, the students and also the faculty,” says instructor Lance Davidson. “It gives the community cohesion and continuity, and they see that and take that back home.”

Many Xenopus course alums, such as Walentek and Miller, have returned to teach the next generation of students. It’s a shining example of why CSHL’s remains a hopping hub for cutting-edge science education.

Written by: Luis Sandoval, Communications Specialist | sandova@cshl.edu | 516-367-6826

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