Cells, Cells, and more Cells! – A day in the Bursac Lab

As one would expect, working in a tissue engineering lab revolves around one main thing: cells! In the lab there are myriads of ways to manipulate and care for cells and ensure that they are happy. In a sense, every day in the lab is like cell daycare where we have to cater to their every need. We also have to use procedures to analyze the cells and tissues that we culture to derive scientific insight from them.

Typically I arrive at the lab around 11 after getting a hearty breakfast from McDonalds and a fruit-flavored drink. As soon as I set my bag down, it’s go-time! Usually there will be cells in the incubator that I need to passage; a procedure which lifts them off the bottom of the flask and allows me to move them into 3 new flasks so that the cells have enough room to grow. I also might need to change their growth media, which just involves aspirating out the old media they’re in (which has accumulated cellular wastes) and replacing it with a new media, before putting the cells back in the incubator to grow. These are the most quintessential daily chores as we need cells in order to do research. There are also lots of side-projects that I will have to work on throughout the day. Usually there will be samples of cross-sections or whole bundles that I need to immunostain. This process sometimes takes 4 days, so if there’s a whole bundle stain I will start on Monday and replace them in blocking, Tuesday to add primaries, Wednesday to add secondaries, and Thursday to mount the samples to a slide. This process sometimes takes from 45 minutes to an hour, but is mainly washing steps which just require waiting. Sometimes I’ll also need to create cross-sections which involves putting a whole bundle in OCT (a compound which can be frozen quickly in liquid nitrogen with tissue embedded within). I then use the CryoStat to cut sections of the whole bundle and can immunostain these samples as well. Recently I’ve been working on practicing Tube Formation Assays, a process which allows one to evaluate endothelial vasculature formation. I’ve also been making molds by synthesizing a polymer so that we can grow whole bundles in them. Usually I will finish in the lab at 4:30 – 5:30, and may read a few papers to further my understanding afterwards.

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