Last Friday was not exactly a busy day at work. Our machines were running, and our lab manager was out on vacation. Naturally, I decided that Friday would be the perfect time to get my hands dirty with some real science-y, wet-bench work. So with that, I called upon our lab intern Ryan to teach me how to do things.
I decided to perform a Gel Electrophoresis on some extra sample that we had. This is a cool, pretty standard way of separating DNA product or any protein product based on the size of the molecules. To start out, you mix these chemicals together and pour it into a little gel box where it creates an agarose matrix, which allows for the molecules to pass through. The box is hooked up and uses an electrical charge to move the negatively charged molecules. The smaller the molecules, the faster and farther they move. The little blue ink spots on the left-hand side (to the right of that orange bar) is where I loaded the sample into the gel matrix. This is not for people who have unsteady hands, as I found I have. Luckily, Ryan showed me how I can steady it a little bit.
The resulting images are pretty cool (and have actually been used to create pretty cool art work). To the left, that black-and-white image, is what the end result is. The long lines are my ladder sample, which contains all sorts of lengths and can be used to measure how far your sample moves; mine is in the middle. Pretty cool that it actually worked!
You might be wondering what the point of doing this is. Well, what we can do then is extract the DNA at a particular length in which we are interested, and this step can be used in some sample preparations for sequencing on our machines in the lab.
Our lab currently supports three different types of technology: Affymetrix GeneChip arrays, 454 Flx Titanium Sequencing, and our most often used illumina HiSeq2000, which handles nearly all of our workload, generating up to five terabytes of data per month (and the machine only costs about $800,000). Pretty cool stuff!