Women & Science

Mako Yamamoto (Salk Institute) & nada Zein (San Diego Mesa Community College)


Today we were informed of an upcoming gathering with our partners at the Salk Institute to discuss the Design and Discovery project (www.designdiscovery.salk.edu). Each one of us 13 Mesa designers will be paired up with a Salk Institute scientist. I am excited to see who I will be paired up with... I would like to design and construct a garment that not only celebrates the science but also takes into consideration the busy life of women scientists. I would like the garment to be wearable and to have the potential to be dressed up or dressed down depending on the occasion. Can't wait!

Mako Yamamoto is my partner. Mako works in the Belmonte lab.

Mako uses HITI technology in vivo to remove faulty genes and replace them with healthy or functional genes. HITI is the new era of CRISPR/Cas9 technology which is developed as a gene-editing tool to modify DNA. The pictures she presents me with are: 1. a cartoon of DNA and CRISPR/Cas9 2. a picture of brain tissues taken under fluorescent microscopy. In these tissues, an exogenous gene was introduced using the HITI method. The blue cells indicate cell nuclei. The orange cells show incorporation of all HITI components. The yellow cells represent both green and orange. The green cells represent those cells where the exogenous gene has been successfully incorporated into the genome. This is the desired cell color.

The paper describing the methodology was published in the December 2016 issue of Nature. This work was described as "the sunrise of genome editing".

I could not sleep tonight thinking of all kinds of ideas that the meeting with Mako generated in my mind: 1. the bronze age of medicine based on gene editing; 2. the DNA being cleaved, opened and fixed; 3. the hope HITI technology is promising; 4. Mako coming from Japan to be part of this beautiful work; 5. all the women scientists through the years. I’m thinking of a canvas that could express all of the above: bronze, gene editing, hope, Mako, Japan, kimonos, women, easy to wear art, and the CRISPR/Cas9 carrying guide RNA.

In addition, I am thinking of the committed Haute Couture seamstresses throughout the fashion world; also in their lab coats doing tedious work. Their work, similar to Mako's, brings beauty and joy to life. I’m envisioning a bronze color coat a la Chrisitan Dior, decorated on its back by a double-stranded DNA — similar to a dragon. I am seeing a lining the color of cells that successfully integrated the desired DNA into the coveted site in the genome .

I am assigned Stephanie DeLossantos as a model. Measuring, cutting and slashing and the pattern is done. Thank you Stacey East for your guidance in drawing the coat shawl collar!

It is time to run the first coat muslin test. Yay! The muslin fits.

Time to find a way to place the DNA inspired by picture 1 onto the coat.

I decide to digitize the DNA and embroider it on the back of the coat. Who better than my friend Ingrid Leake to help me with that? Like my counterpart Mako, Ingrid uses modern technology to digitize and sculpt the shape of the genetic material on the back of my kimono-esque coat.

Ok, excitement is high. Looking for ways to fill in the sculpted genetic material. Experimenting on samples. Bronze, silver, gold fabrics. The alchemy turning scientific concepts into arts...NOT... My choice of fabric combination is a catastrophe. The color of the gold and silver fabric absorbed the light away from the bronze fabric. Back to square one.

Ok no problem. How about metallic threads? Pretty by themselves but utter failure when embroidered on the coat. Am I to regret the choice of fabric? I’m getting discouraged… Well how about embroidery and applique! After hours in three different fabric stores, I located this silk, green/orange and yellow fabric reminiscent of Mako’s microscope photo. We might have a winner. Five hours later, I am happy. The sample works! Onto embroidering the actual coat…

I have the technology concept down. The coat is done!

It's time to start working on the dress. Mako’s picture 2 is up . It makes me think of sunshine, poppy fields, flowers, spring green, youth, hope, on a canvas. Again, I’m thinking of a vaporous tulle skirt a la Christian Dior circa 1950’s sprinkled with flowers and butterflies and symbolizing the different cells. The coat is CRISPR/Cas9, which is the bold machine that cuts, opens and modifies double-strand DNA. The dress is the inside still a young field, engendering hope, spring, renewal.

The color of the dress is that of a canvas ready to receive. How to attach 6 yards of a tulle skirt to a bodice measuring 25 1/2" at the waist? Thank you Anna Marie Santana-Phillips for your guidance.
Flowers: Tulle. Not a great idea,,. They look like pom poms.

Christalline? Better. After a trip with Mako to the fabric store, she picks, green, orange and blue representing the colors of the fluorescent proteins used to visualize the experimental results.

Cutting the flowers, over 150 of them is a large task. All of a sudden all my friends are “busy”. I thought I could organize a “flower-cutting party”.

My friend Isabelle Faurie comes to the rescue. She is a Montessori teacher and could use paper flowers and butterflies for her classroom!

The christalline fabric is slippery but ironing it onto freezer paper and cutting it this way is slightly easier. The party is on. Isabelle gets her paper flowers, I get my fabric flowers and butterflies.

I am not done yet! I need to gather every single flower and buttefly and I need to sew them onto the dress. I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but I am nervous. What will it look like?
Created By
Nada Zein

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