Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blame it on ... plastic?

Hah! Finally! If you are a biologist of any flavour and your experiment fails, you can blame it on ....

Your disposables! From multiwell plates to pipette tips, plastic leaching and/or adsorption may be affecting your experiment. If your assay fails, you now have a new candidate for blame. Nope, nothing to do with you not prepping your reagents proper, or your cells are too old or that you may have forgotten to add in the test compound du jour.

Don't believe me? Check this out.

However, with the pervasiveness of plastic in biolabs the world over, does this cast a pall over the results obtained and published in peer review journals? Can we trust the outcome of our experiments, may they be positive, negative or inconclusive?


Like labwork isn't hard enough already. But what are the alternatives? Are bioplastics better if they are prepared without the interfering biocides? Will the cost be prohibitive? Judging from the comments, glass isn't without its own set of problems. Apart from the adsorption issue, the manpower required to prepare glassware for laboratory use can be quite a headache.

Just to share ... I used scintillation vials to store my plant compounds as well as for bacterial incubation. Reusing glassware means washing extensively with detergent and using enormous amount of water. My supervisor related that her supervisor made all his students rinse their glassware 10 - 15 times with hot water with a final triple rinse with distilled water. Dude started as a physicist and being the uber-conscious analytical scientist, decided to check glassware for contamination and voila! Apparently normal washing isn't good enough and he devised that demented rinsing regiment as the best way to prep glassware. If you're into sterile work, this is followed by autoclaving and drying. And if you are really obsessive, you throw in dry sterilisation (180 deg Celcius, overnight).

So, how does one have an environmentally friendly lab that produces consistent and reliable result? You tell me.

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