Thursday, July 26, 2012

The greatest western blot machine west of the Mississippi

Readers of this blog: I want you to pause whatever it is you are doing (the redditing can wait till later) and take a brief moment (or two or three) to behold the greatest western blot machine west of the Mississippi, aka me.

For those uninitiated in the glorious ways of molecular biology, you might be scratching your head (or in some cases, that glaringly obvious bald spot), "What the hell is a western blot?"

Here's a brief primer (for those who get this lame pun, you can politely snigger): a western blot is an experimental technique used to detect proteins from sample/tissue/organ/cell/culture plate of your choice. Let's use me as an example. I roll into my research lab some time around 10:30, grind up tiny mice brains in a solution, do some hand waving - and voila! - I end up with some protein. Over the next few hours, I put my feet up and beast people around on Scramble with Friends, solve a couple crosswords and chug coffee. By some force of nature, the proteins are ready to be visualized on a digital imager the next day. And the cycle begins anew. Also, a bunch of rabbits and mice were probably bled to make the process work.

Since I want to fill up some space, here are some nifty diagrams:


A beautiful, completed western blot

Over the last month and a half, I went from knowing only theoretically what western blots are about to becoming an all-out troubleshooter in all matters western. 3% milk or 5% milk? How long should one block for? What's the optimal concentration and volume of antibody? What percent gel is best suited for heat-stable protein? Sigma and Invitrogen (two of the biggest molecular biology companies) should hire me as a consultant. Just the other day, this post doc spotted me and peered over his glasses to say, "What is that, like 25 western blots at the same time?" Alas, it was only 10. A few hours later, another post doc needed some troubleshooting with some equipment. "I knew you would know what to do", he said as a way of explanation.

If only I could get a PhD just by running westerns all day....

(If this post was a bit, you know, off-beat that's probably because my research summer is chugging to an end and it's hot as balls here. I need something to distract myself and re-imagining some of the mundane experiments I do helps).


  1. Great, now you've mastered a technique invented in the 70s

  2. cool story bro!!

  3. Thanks for the post. You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web.sigma antibody