Hmm…how best to preserve our samples? DNA is a long and fragile molecule and it can be tricky to keep a biological sample is protected enough to ensure a high quality genetic sample. One of the easiest and best methods is to keep the sample in a cool, dry environment; so how best to preserve pika hair samples that are stuck on packing tape? Time to hunt around the lab for some supplies.
There’s always a truckload of 15mL tubes in pretty much any lab worth its salt, but if we store the samples in a sealed tube, how will they ever dry? Answer, there needs to be some desiccant inside of each tube. The downside of this of course is that the desiccant will stick to the packing tape we used to get the hair sample. We needed a membrane that would separate the desiccant from the sample but still allow air to flow between the two.
Kimwipes are about as common in genetics labs as fleas on a stray dog and just might do the trick. So we cut these tissues into small sections and jammed into each tube like loading an old musket. This seemed to work well so we produced them en mass.
We were, however, worried that this would prohibit air exchange between the desiccant and sample. Thus began the famous pancake experiment of 2013. The desiccant is normally a blue color and turns bright pink when it absorbs water. We needed something to test dry, and the morning’s breakfast sounded perfect. A small piece of pancake inserted in the tube should turn the desiccant pink if air is exchanging across the Kimwipe and drying out the pancake. We inserted a small piece of the pancake and waited eagerly for signs of pink. To our great relief after a few hours the desiccant showed signs of turning pink and, the morning after, half the desiccant was wonderfully pink. The only downfall, we lost a bite of a tasty pancake, but it was all in the name of science.