July 14, 2011

Success...comes in incredibly small doses

Today was a good day.  After a lab meeting Jared and I sat down and hashed out a short term plan that would hopefully bring us one step closer to our eventual project goal: coating gold beads with proteins and making them stick to a silicon chip.

We decided that we needed to make sure the first step in our process would work.  Yesterday our first step seemed to have gone well, but when we showed up to lab this morning, it was apparent that we had failed.  We had mixed gold beads and a chemical called MUA together, and the MUA was supposed to coat the gold.  However, what happened instead was that all of the MUA and all of the gold spheres stuck together in giant lumps, and that won't work for us: we need them to be separated, individual gold spheres.

Today we decided to test MUA and gold in two different liquids: ethanol and water.  Ethanol is the scientific name for what we commonly call alcohol; it's what gets you drunk.  Water, less so.  Then we went a step further: we also decided to change the amount of MUA that would be added to each sample of the beads, so in total we had eight different vials of beads and MUA to study.  Add in the two control vials, and we had a total of ten.  Here's how they looked after 50 minutes.

The ones on the left are mixed with water and the ones on the right are mixed with ethanol.  You can see the color difference between the two.  We were hoping to see a nice light pink, so it looks like water is the chemical to use.  Next week we'll have to test out phase two of the experiment, which will be adding two more chemicals to the MUA-covered gold: NHS and EDC.  Yes, it's going to get very technical with the acronyms.

Here's how the ideal, perfect, bestest ever situation would play out:
Tuesday: We successfully coat the gold beads with a cow protein called BSA.
Wednesday: We prepare a chip with antibodies that like BSA.
Thursday: We mix the BSA-coated gold and the chip together, and the gold sticks to the chip.  We confirm this using IRIS, a fancy machine I'll get into later.
The following week: We repeat this basic process using gold rods instead of beads, and it works the same.  Then we do the beads and rods at the same time and the IRIS can see a difference between the two.

So, that's my fantasy.  I wonder what reality will look like.

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