Brainy Catenin

…..or How We Made the Front Page


Only today the newspapers

raised the question.

A large mouse sat

with his whiskers askew,

and wondered what the fuss was all about

But these are the days

when experimentation

with the shape of things

is really old hat.

We’ve all got beta-catenin to thank for that.

And oh yes, there still are some, so driven

by heaven knows what, as thinks, just don’t

you mess with what’s god-given;

But the rest of us only lean

back and Woof or Coo, and we wait and see

if the Principle of Fittest Surviving

will really hold true.

So read on, fellers.

First there was viagra

and now there’s this,

and no tales can be told, nor enlighten us more

than that road we’ve traveled from fin to finger

and from sea to shore; nor where

we are going from where we’ve been.

And we’ll do what it takes

to keep on the path

even if it stirs up “righteous” wrath,

and even if you call it repetitive sin.



Beta-Catenin: Well, it turns out that there really is a difference between mice and people. Mice have smooth brains, and therefore little surface area. We have lobulations: gyri and sulci, massively increasing the external surface. In recent experiments, merely supplying beta-catenin to mouse embryos, gives them larger, more convoluted brains. And (better watch out) it does make them smarter.(Tech note: There are 2 principle kinds of cells: neurons (nerve cells) and glia. The neurons are formed deep in the brain, on the ventricular (fluid sac) surface. The glia form chains (like a ladder) going from the ventricle up to the cortical (outer layer) of the brain. When this is set up the neurons “climb” up the ladder to the cortex where they then interconnect with each other. The glia seem to direct the neurons to the correct locations, and also have some function in maintaining the proper action of the synapses.)