Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I mentioned briefly this device when it arrived two weeks ago. Today we used and this gives me a chance to tell you more about this device.

When growing microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, etc.) we usually either use a "wet" environment (media) or a "dry" one, where we grow them on agar basis - a jelly substance that contains nutrients. As I learned today, agar is made from seaweed and was originally used to make gelatinous food in the orient, so it is in an essence, jelly.

To make agar plates, we need to prepare a mixture of water, glucose (sugar), nutrients, and, of course,  agar. Each of the components is weighted to make sure we match the recipe.

This mix is then heated to achieve two goals. First, sterilization to ensure that no other microorganism gets to party on the good stuff. And second to melt the agar. When the liquid is cooled down, the molecules will form a network that will stabilize the jelly.

Since we plan on making many agar plates, we equipped ourselves with the MasterClave. A device to make agar plates a piece of cake.

It consists of a pot-like internal chamber where the agar mixture is put. This chamber has an internal blade for mixing the mixture.

Once the mixture is in the pot, we install it in the machine. It is secured into place.

After that we can close the lid, and secure it, much like a pressure cooker.

Now the MasterClave heats the mixture to programmed temperature and pressure, and then lets it cool to a pouring temperature --- one that is not too hot to damage the plates, and not to cold enough for the agar to solidify. At this stage we can also add temperature sensitive ingredients (such as antibiotics) and have them mix into the melted agar.

Connected to the MasterClave is pump that allows us to deliver pre-configured amount of agar in each press on foot pedal. I missed the pouring step today (committee meeting), but the results are a nice stack of plates. These need to cool down for a day, and then can be packed and stored for use.

Today we made only a liter of agar, but the MasterClave can make up to 9 liters, which allows for a much more substantial amount of plates.

On an other note, Naomi visited the lab today. We immediately put her to work and had her load a gel. She did not hesitate and did a marvelous job at it.

1 comment:

Rory Macneil said...

What a great idea you have; blogging the set up and early days of a lab. I am surprised others have not done it before, or perhaps they have and I have not come across them. I like the way you have made it into a story, with the day to day elements woven in, and getting all the individuals into the story. The pictures are great, too.

I came across The Friedman Lab Chronicles when I was looking for some inspiration. I work for a software company that offers an online electronic lab notebook for documenting and sharing biomedical research, and we are about to relaunch our blog. The plan is to blog the development of our ELN, much as you are blogging the development of the lab. It will be worts and all, reporting on the feedback we are getting from users and how we go about incorporating that into the ongoing development of the project. I will let you know when we get started, which will be soon. In the meantime, I will be following the Friedman Lab Chronicles!