Tuesday, 11 September 2012

expiry date

i have been conducting more experiments on inducing bacteriophages in Moraxella catarrhalis recently. for those who find these words a bit outlandish, the theory isn't all that complicated - M. catarrhalis, or how we'll abbreviate it to m.cat for now, is a bacteria. though any bacteriologist (or biologist) will point out quickly, not all bacteria are bad for you, this one pretty much is. it causes a range of diseases, most notably ear infections (otitis media) in children, and lung infections (pneumonia) in the elderly. a bacteriophage is a virus that 'eats' the bacteria (phage being latin for 'to eat') in the sense that the virus infects the bacteria, and causes the bacteria to explode (the technical term is 'lyse') somewhere down the line. in essence, the bacteriophages (or phages, in short), infect bacteria the same way bacteria infect humans, the relationship being parasitic in nature.

induction here means i am trying to get the phages to lyse m.cat by manipulating the m.cat defence system. i've done this simply by exposing my m.cat to low concentrations of an antibiotic called mitomycin c. anyway, the whole idea is that under specific conditions, i can cause this induction to occur, and the phages will run rampant, something like if you were to shower your friends with flu virus, then take away their immune system. then hope the flu virus becomes so prevalent in the population that you can randomly pick a section of air and have enough virus in it to do whatever further experiments you want with the sample. not that i'm saying one would want to do such a thing to friends. but i'm just saying. sometimes.

in any case, the induction process was supposed to get me a high concentration of phage. but, as with all trials and tribulations of this world, science is no exempt. today, i have conducted a series of sub-experiments in order to determine what had gone wrong. kind of like how a computer technician troubleshoots or debugs codes. i think.

my conclusion thusfar it that i have been using samples of m.cat that have been kept in the 4C room too long. i find this rather... unsettling. that for the thousands of procedural and technical complexities of the experiment, my problem may have been simply that my samples had gone stale. this is both elegant and simple. but, there is more troubleshooting to be done, and only time will tell if occam's razor has struck once again! oh, thee, blade that cuts me deep.

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