Week Nine – Experiment, Hand Gymnastics
I had a very exciting week! Since Purva was away for her exams, I managed her experiment. This entailed splitting 2 cell flasks into 9 over three days, then treating 6 of those flasks by replacing the media with new media, this time treated with varying concentrations of a drug. I also plated some cells into these little wells, which I let grow, treated, and began fixing with MitoTracker and paraformaldehyde. As you might be able to guess from “MitoTracker,” the main interest of the experiment is the reaction of (and thus the molecules produced by) the cells under mitochondrial stress. The MitoTracker stains the “blebbing” mitochondria for fluorescent visualization under a powerful microscope.
Now that I summarize it, the experiment sounds quick, but it actually took quite a lot of time: clarifying instructions from another person at the lab, maintaining sterile conditions, prepping supplies, checking cells for contamination under the microscope, and passaging cells. I was surprised about the amount of time in a lab you spend preparing to do the actual work: diluting ethanol and drugging media and mixing fixative solutions, or thawing out trypsin and fetal bovine serum and warming drugs between your palms, or running the UV lights in the biological safety cabinet for 20 minutes to ensure any contamination in there dies. It’s just like cooking: you can do a lot of stuff simultaneously, but you can’t let any pots boil over.
Did you know? Our hands are pulley systems. I have opened so many flasks one-handed, clenching hard to gain traction against gloves slippery from ethanol. It’s like learning to do the splits with your hands. You appreciate the reality that your muscles are much stronger than the ligaments and tendons they pull.
I can’t wait to see the results next week! It beats working on this paper. :/