Friday, April 18, 2008

Top 5 McGyver moments in the lab

Have you ever had one of those McGyver moments in the lab where you inventively use lab supplies or household objects to make an experiment work? These people brought it one step further:

1- Michelle Kline at the University of California had to improvise a material to build microfluidics chambers when her funding dried out. She turned to Shrinky Dinks, and created a low cost alternative!

2- Ellie Wollman and Fran├žois Jacob had to improvise a way to look at bacterial conjugation and to map the genome simply by measuring the time of transfer. But they needed a way to abruptly stop conjugation, so they use a blender to sever the pili and stop the transfer!

3-Hans Spemman was studying embryology in the 1930's and one of the questions of the time was if every cell has a deterministic fate from the first division on or if they acquire their fate later in embryo development. To divide a cell before it's first division Spemman used a baby hair (since they are sturdy yet very fine) to cleave the cell. In fact just by using this technique and tweezers he was even able to do nuclear transfers and kickstart the study of stem cells. Talk about being ahead of your time.

4-In one the labs I've worked in in the past, we use to cut corners and make our own DNA ladder and our own TAQ polymerase. But Orac takes it further and contemplates how to create your own electrophoresis box. And of course you can make your own DNA columns if you visit the local potery shop, or just reuse your Qiagen columns.

5- Submit your story in the comments, and we'll see if it's McGyver-worthy...


6 comments:

Mr. Gunn said...

We needed to dialyze liters of medium, so we built the L.S.D. 2000 using a clear plastic tub with a lid which we loaded up with our filled dialysis tubing, and then ran hoses through the lid to a large reservoir and kept the buffer circulating using a $20 fountain pump from the hardware store.

It was only later on I discovered tangential flow filtration, which is considerably more elegant, but also considerably more expensive.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Too many to count: We've used Ikea wine rack as a serological pipette holders, a 0.2ml PCR tube as a screw protector, 10ul tip box as a 0.2ml PCR tube holder, a 15ml Falcon tube as a tweezer holder, tip box packaging as a book stand, conical flask as a four-Qiagen-midiprep column holder...

...and a paper clip as a gel casting tray peg.

Anonymous said...

Cold fusion powered electrophoresis.

Anonymous said...

My mouth as a pipette gun.

trisph8 said...

The best innovation I've seen in a lab so far is the $12 salad spinner replacement of a $9K plate centrifuge--simply clip your 96-well plate(s) into the edge of the spinner, a few rotations later and presto--samples are spun to the bottom of the wells. No capital equipment justification for that one.

andrewclegg said...

I used 50ml falcon tubes as shot glasses for tequila slammers at a lab Xmas party... Does that count?

Andrew.