Gel electrophoresis, or ‘running a gel’ is the ‘bread ‘n butter’ of any molecular biology lab – the ‘stock ‘n trade’ of the Life Sciences – the ‘meat ‘n two veg’ of …..okay, okay – you get the picture. Basically gel electrophoresis works by sieving DNA through the pores of an agar jelly and separates different sized DNA fragments according to their size and charge. Geez, I’ve run dozens of gels in my time….usually all goes well, although who hasn’t reversed the current and lost the samples as they run out of the gel into the buffer surrounding the gel…..[okaaaay….that'll only be me then]. So, it makes me think – what were the origins of gel electrophoresis…who invented it?
Ever heard of Oliver Smithies? Well, he’s a Yorkshire-born American Geneticist who is credited with developing gel electrophoresis in the 1950’s after – bizarrely – reminiscing about helping his mother do the laundry as a child – read more about his inspiration at this Great Experiments entry.
It’s amazing where inspiration comes from, no?….and it’ll certainly make me think twice about driving any ‘tanks’ into ‘buffers’ when things don’t turn out quite right in the lab!
A gel tank….
…..not hitting some buffers
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I’ve been thinking about Bioscience branding and logos – I had a fleeting thought about the style of the ‘Life Technologies’ brand and its [albeit tenuous] similarity with the Kellogg’s brand logo. Molecular bioscience research is no longer the realm of privileged academics e.g. the RNA Tie club of the 1950’s – more ‘Tied’ to the multi-billion dollar Biotech industry – off-the-[supermarket]-shelf-kits and ‘solutions to your research needs’ are readily available – just peruse the many flash catalogs whilst drinking your tea or coffee from your ‘Promega’, ‘Qiagen‘ or ‘Life Tech’ logo’d mugs. Less emphasis now of crafting experiments with home-made solutions and cobbled together kit – why? Laziness? Maybe, but another driver is less time – science is driven by short chunks of funding – pressure is on scientists to produce timely ‘impact’ science – grab a kit off the shelf rather than the time consuming act of working up an experiment from ‘first principles’. Much of this fancy branding wouldn’t look out of place on other commodities, no? Who knows – maybe in the future some of our breakfast cereals, laptops and trainers/sneakers will be brought to you by one of the big players in the Bioscience market place. Or what about the other way round? Plasmid preps brought to you by Kelloggs, Apple does proteomics……Adidas ‘for all your high throughput sequencing needs’?
Follow et Al. on Twitter @lopsidedlablife