Sunday, January 29, 2006

RNA isolation: required reading for any student, postdoc, or P.I.

Yes, I know this is a natural products/herbal medicine blog but, believe it or not, even pharmacologists sometimes have cause for isolating RNA in their experiments. I'm also really keen on good science journalism since there are so few writers qualified enough to cover science and medicine.

How many of you have used Chomczynski & Sacchi's RNA isolation method using acid phenol-guanidinium thiocyanate-chloroform extraction? Y'ever wonder why chloroform? Y'ever have a student ask you who ever thought to put isoamyl alcohol in the chloroform? Y'ever wonder why 4M guanidinium and not 1M or 2.7M? Or, do you just use kits and never think about these things?

It always amazes me how techniques develop and how often we take for granted today the technologies we have available to us in the lab.

So, while sneaking into lab this Sunday morning before PharmGirl and PharmToddler wake up, I grabbed the new copy of Nature Methods and got a great history lesson from an emerging science journalism star, Michael Eisenstein.

You've got to read his quick one-pager, "A look back: message in a test tube," that precedes the entire classic protocol. (Apologies if you don't have institutional access to Nature Methods; send a gmail to abelpharmboy and I'll send you my PDF).

I won't spoil it for you, but it makes you appreciate those who came before us and how happy accidents come from the ingenuity of folks working in resource-challenged laboratories.

P.S. to any grad students out there about to take their qualifying exams: if I'm on your committee, this stuff is officially fair game!


At Sun Feb 05, 12:50:00 AM EST, Blogger Bill Hooker said...

I knew why, but not who, or any of the other history. Thanks for pointing to that article, it really is excellent.


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