Tuesday, June 25, 2013


One of the most amazing perks of being a Biologist is to culture cells. It is like keeping a pet animal. The cells need to be passaged every 2 days - I call it washing and feeding them. They would die if I did not passage them. It is like a ritual. Every 2 days, I have to do it for my experiments - but I also feel good when I do it. It is a no-brainer - meditation-like. After meditating through the first few steps of passaging (PBS wash, Trypsinization, Centrifugation, Suspending pellet in medium), I would be focussed and clear in my head to think about how many plates and cells per plate I would need to seed for my experiments.

I love my cells (no pun!). I culture beautiful epithelial cells that grow in colonies and form a monolayer eventually. I remember the days when I first started culturing them - I loved making movies of them moving around - it was fascinating to me. Later, around my quals, I hated them a lot (quite natural,I guess) but now I'm back to loving them again.

One favorite pastime is to compare behaviour of single or collective cells to humans as individuals or society respectively....

Turnover, in Biology, refers to the cycle of depletion of a thing followed by something else replacing it. Turnover is very crucial and has to be happening continuously for most of the biological processes under normal conditions.

                - Though there are several turnover phenomena needed for our body to survive and also for the society as a whole, I love musing upon the emotional subtleties of the humans - it is not only impossible but also detrimental to growth to remain in the same emotional state always. I think it pays off to go through the cycles of emotions - I feel more alive that way.

Contact inhibition - When a cell encounters another cell, its growth gets inhibited. 

               - I leave it to you to figure that one out.

Single cells move faster than collective cells but cells need to remain collective for tissue formation.

              - That's an answer to what you might have ended thinking about in the previous concept. Alone, we can be fast but we need company to remain as a safe and sane society.

Every moving colony of cells has a leader cell. The leader cell is polarized - the front of the cell which explores the environment is distinct from the rear of the cell where it contacts the cells behind it and pulls them forward. 

              - Is that not the same for a leader in any group of humans as well? The leader needs to be sharp, intuitive and adventurous on one side to search for new avenues for the group to grow; on the other side, the leader needs to be down-to-earth, caring and patient with the rest of the group. In the quest for new pastures, the leader can never lose contact with the followers because that can decide the fate of the entire cohort.

These are a few of my idle thoughts while in the lab.