Sunday, May 22nd, 2112
There were so many things about Frank’s new project that he needed to know about, and Frank decided to begin his day by doing research on his Workstation.
He opened up a browser window as he began to search for information on his project. He combed medical databases for journal papers on the Jupiter Virus and the SN281 mouse model. He read the papers, absorbing the information and taking down notes at the same time on his Workstation.
It was hours before Frank got up from his bed, groaning. His Workstation flitted out of his way as he rubbed the crick in his neck. The Workstation hummed quietly, suspended in mid-air as it waited for Frank to return to it again. Frank felt as though his head was about to burst with all the information he had read.
Mattie chirped enquiringly at Frank as he hopped towards Frank and perched at the edge of his bed. Frank stood up from his bed and stretched.
“Yea, I’m done for now.” Frank yawned tiredly. “I’ll go get myself some lunch. You hungry, Mattie?” He opened the window of his bedroom.
“Go on, stretch your wings and get something to eat.” Mattie sang happily as he flew out the window in search of food.
Frank made himself a tossed salad for lunch and nibbled distractedly at it as he continued to search online for more journal papers about the Jupiter virus.
He found one that looked particularly promising, and began to read it.
The Jupiter Virus is responsible for causing the Kindercrock Disease. The Kindercrock Disease usually manifests as a mild fever or exanthema. More severe symptoms may also manifest, involving the central nervous system of the affected individual. The neurotropic virus attacks the central nervous system of younger children, mostly from ages three to five years of age, leading to conditions such as encephalitis and massive hemorrhaging occurring in the brain.
The virus is known to be from the same family as the Cropiex Virus that has devastated the world a hundred years ago....”
Something clicked in his head. His heart raced and he began to tremble in excitement.
Frank had a brilliant idea.
Could it work? It should.
Fueled by the adrenaline that rushed through him at that epiphany, he abandoned his search for the Jupiter Virus and excitedly turned his attention on the Cropiex Virus instead.
Monday, May 23th, 2112
Frank was in Dr. Potter’s office, eagerly telling her about his brilliant idea. She listened attentively to his words, asking him for supportive evidence that he had based his ideas on, and Frank showed her a couple of journal papers where he had derived his hypothesis from using his Fitch.
“It does sound promising!” Dr. Potter looked enthusiastic. Then she tapped her chin thoughtfully. “However, I’m not sure if you know this, but presently in the Immunology Department, only Professor Gerard Way’s laboratory is working on the Cropiex Virus.”
Oh crap. And to think he had wanted to avoid Professor Way as much as possible! The possibility of getting ground-breaking results that could be potentially very useful for researchers in the field made Frank want so desperately to do the project. He couldn’t see any way to avoid Professor Way now... it was just too exciting to ignore.
“I thought his lab worked on Animas?” Frank bit his lip worriedly.
“Well, his lab works on the Cropiex virus too. They’re quite related, actually.”
“Oh,” Frank said. “Do you think it’s possible for us to ask him for a vial of the virus?”
“Ah, that’s not possible. Only Professor Way’s laboratory has the safety license to handle the Cropiex Virus in the department. It’s still being regarded as quite a dangerous virus.” Dr. Potter replied. “We can however, ask whether he would be willing to collaborate on this project with us. I can ask him to be the co-supervisor of your project if he is agreeable.”
Frank brightened at that prospect.
“Really? Do you think he’ll be willing to, Genevieve? Is the project attractive enough?”
“Well,” Genevieve began gently, “I don’t mean to be a wet blanket, Frank… but a collaboration between our labs will still require you to go to his laboratory to carry out the experiments required. As far as I know, the license requires Professor Way to be the one to train you personally to handle the Cropiex Virus. And you should know that Professor Way is a very busy and important man, and he may not be able to fork out the time to train you. I just want you to be prepared for disappointment. Also, he tends to accept only graduate students.”
Frank knew that, but couldn't stop himself from feeling a wave of crushing disappointment.
“Well, the project is very exciting, so there’s still a chance. Don’t look so down!” Dr. Potter said with a look of pity after noticing the despondent look on his face.
“In fact…” Genevieve touched her Workstation absent-mindedly as she swiped a finger across the glass. “Professor Way’s in his office right now. Shall we drop in to ask?” She looked up from her Workstation and smiled motherly at Frank.
Five minutes later, a bemused Frank found himself knocking on the door of Professor Way’s office.
“Come in,” Frank heard a muffled voice from behind the door.
Genevieve opened the office door, and Frank took a moment to look around Professor Way’s office.
The office was decorated in an elegant and simple manner. The floor was carpeted in a comfortable gray and moving pictures were hung up on one of the whitewashed walls. Frank examined a couple of them. One showed Professor Way grinning at the camera as his laboratory members crowded around him and carried him up on their shoulders. They were cheering and waving at the camera. Another showed Professor Way with his laboratory members in the middle of a toast, and Frank watched as they drank heartily and then proceeded to force another drink down Professor Way’s throat. They cheered as he emptied the cup, turned it upside down and flashed a thumbs-up sign at the camera. Other photos showed Professor Way with his laboratory members at various functions and dinners.
The rest of the walls, apart from the wall behind Professor Way that had a large window with an elegant black leather window seat and soft red curtains, were covered with shelves and shelves of books. Professor Way had a polished mahogany table in the middle of the room that was covered in papers and research material. Picture frames lined the top of his table, but Frank couldn’t see any of the photographs in them because they were facing Professor Way.
Professor Way was currently seated behind his table, his right hand over his Workstation and his left hand twirling his glasses casually as he looked up at the two visitors in his office. He smiled welcomingly at them.
“Hello Gerard!” Genevieve greeted him cheerfully as Frank stood shyly beside her. “Are you available for a short discussion now?” Frank couldn’t stop himself from staring at Professor Way’s face, mesmerized by how handsome he looked without glasses.
Professor Way could pull off looking good with or without glasses, Frank thought enviously.
“Hi Genevieve,” Gerard nodded, “Hi Frank, hello Mattie!” Mattie, who had been perched silently on Frank’s shoulder the whole time, chirruped loudly at Gerard. “Yes, I’m available now.”
“Ah, I see you’ve met my FYP student!” Genevieve grinned as she wrapped a motherly hand around Frank’s shoulders.
Professor Way’s lips twitched slightly in humor. “Yes, he has made quite an impression on me.”
“Oh??” Genevieve raised an eyebrow. She turned around to look at Frank questioningly. “What did you do, Frank, to gain Professor Way’s attention?” She asked teasingly.
“Uh…” Frank flushed a crimson red. "I... uhm..."
The two professors exchanged looks of amusement. Professor Way burst out laughing.
“Stop teasing him, Genevieve. Was there something you wanted to discuss?”
“Ah yes. I wanted to propose a collaboration between our laboratories.”
Professor Way raised a dark eyebrow.
“On the Jupiter Virus, Genevieve? I’m afraid I’m not an expert in that field like you are…”
“No, Gerard. The Cropiex Virus. I’ll let Frank fill you in on his proposal, shall I?” Genevieve’s emerald eyes twinkled in amusement.
“Oh, it’s Frank idea? That’s interesting.” Professor Way nodded approvingly. “Do take a seat!”
Genevieve slid down into a chair in front of Professor Way’s table, and Frank took a seat next to her.
Frank was petrified.
Having a conversation with this man was distressing enough, but the idea of having a scientific discussion with him was freaking terrifying! The Cropiex Virus was Professor Way’s area of interest and Frank cursed himself internally. He was suddenly horribly aware that the few hours he had spent yesterday researching the Cropiex Virus was simply not enough! There were loads and loads of papers on it, spanning for the past hundred years. He really should have read up more about it before bringing it up to Genevieve. What if Professor Way thought that his idea was a terrible one? What if he shot down Frank’s idea from the beginning because of something simple that Frank had missed looking at during his research? The thought of humiliating himself, and even worse, having his failures being reflected on Genevieve as a bad supervisor… Frank began to perspire profusely in his seat.
As though realizing that Frank was about to start hyperventilating from the stress, Genevieve leaned in to whisper into his ear, “No pressure. Just go through everything with him just like you did with me.”
Frank winced painfully.
Professor Way leaned forward attentively as he placed his glasses back on his face.
“Go on,” he encouraged, a bright smile on his handsome face.
Frank sucked in a breath as he began, his heart pounding loudly in his ears. He tapped his Fitch and a little screen popped up between them.
“While looking at the Cropiex Virus yesterday, I saw that scientists were unable to find a proper animal model to study the virus,” Frank began nervously. “Scientists have so far only managed to infect primates. However, there are a lot of ethical issues surrounding the use of primates. On top of that, it’s really costly and their reproductive cycles are longer as compared to mice. So mice would really be considered a better model to study the Cropiex Virus. Then I realized that there are no mouse models established so far for the Cropiex Virus – scientists have tried immunocompetent, humanized and transgenic mice but so none of these mice can be infected by the Cropiex Virus.”
Genevieve smiled reassuringly at Frank, and the look of interest on Professor Way’s face gave Frank a little more confidence.
“I was looking at this paper yesterday,” Frank continued a little more staunchly as he tapped his Fitch. The screen flashed, “And I realized that the Jupiter Virus and the Cropiex Virus actually comes from the same family. As the Jupiter Virus is able to infect SN281 mice, I realized that there was a distinct possibility that SN281 mice could be infected by the Cropiex Virus too. I did some literature digging and found out that the SN281 mouse has been used as an infection model for other viruses from the same family too, namely the Racic, Popilia and Cromex viruses.” Professor Way peered at the images that were projected on the screen, his hand reaching out to touch the screen and scroll through the different papers. He nodded in affirmation as he tapped the side of his black-rimmed glasses in thought.
“What makes this relationship between these viruses important is that I realized that they were neurological viruses – they all caused diseases of the central nervous system. And the reason why SN281 mice are susceptible to these viruses is because they are microglia deficient, and microglia are actually really important for the first wave of immune defense of the CNS. Thus I think it is highly likely that since the SN281 mice are susceptible to these viruses, they would be susceptible to the Cropiex virus too. And we could use the SN281 mice as an infection model to study the Cropiex virus.”
“Ah, microglia deficient mice, you say. That’s interesting! Genevieve, you are working on this mouse, correct?” Professor Way’s hazel eyes up in exhilaration.
“Yes, Gerard, we are indeed using these mice. I knew you would find it exciting!”
“Indeed, the idea does sound promising. How would you propose we do this project, Frank?” Professor Way asked intently.
Frank began to speak eagerly, encouraged by Professor Way’s enthusiasm. He ticked the ideas he had off his fingers.
“Well, I thought we could first establish an infection profile, by infecting the mice at different ages, and seeing whether they would manifest any clinical symptoms. We could also monitor their growth over a period of time, to see whether infection of these mice could led to weight loss. For example, we know that mice actually lose a lot of weight when they are infected by the Influenza virus. Perhaps infection with Cropiex could cause the same effect?”lit
“Then I thought we could examine the histology of the mice after infecting them with the virus, by examining organs like the brain, the limbs etcetera, to see whether we could see any cytopathic effect caused by the virus. We could also examine the immune response that occurs upon infection in these mice by isolating splenocytes and looking at the B cell and T cell response.”
“Excellent,” Professor Way said heartedly. “I see Frank has got a master plan. We could expand on that to make it better. Am I correct to say that Frank has no prior experience in the laboratory?"
"Then it's very impressive that you managed to come up with an experiemental plan yourself!" Professor Way shot Frank a disarming grin. "Genevieve, you have a very promising student!”
Genevieve beamed widely at Professor Way, and replied, “Ah Gerard, I know I do! But the problem is, would you help me nurture his talent?”
Frank’s heart thundered loudly in his ears as he waited with bated breath.
Professor Way peered at Frank through his glasses contemplatively, tapping the sides of his glasses again. His lips twitched into a beautiful smile.
“I’ll love to.”
And with that said, after a few details were thrashed out between the three of them, Professor Gerard Way became Frank’s co-supervisor for his exciting new project.
(Hitting Too Close to Home)
1) Microglia are part of the immune response of the central nervous system (CNS). They are macrophages (Greek: big eaters) that engulf and digest pathogens/cellular debris.
2) The SN281 mouse model is of my own invention. To my knowledge, there is no mouse model that is microglia deficient, although there are some that have impaired microglia responses.
3) Again, the Racic, Popilia and Cromex viruses do not exist and are part of my own invention.