Survivor - Lab Edition

i-e21fcc7d4a1293af4df1f1ab9705d5a1-DMEM.jpg(What follows was started at The Sunburnt Cow, an Australian Bar/Restaurant in Alphabet City - over a brunch that included unlimited Mimosas, Bloody Marys, Fosters and Vegemite.)

Here is the hypothetical situation:
It's the end of the world. You are barricaded in your lab. You have unlimited access to water. What lab supplies can you eat? What order should you consume them in?


(We realize that this depends on the model organism used in the lab ...)

- Yeast extract. Very rich. Probably very flavorful. This is a component of many broths used to grow bacteria. (And yes this was inspired by the Vegemite.)
- Primary ingredients. In this approach you would mix essential amino acids, sugar, vitamins and anything else you needed from the Sigma catalogue in a beaker with some water and presto ... survival mix. We weren't sure about how this would go down. (Also of note, you can get Kosher Sigma products too!)
- LB. This is the main medium for growing bacteria. Should be good enough for us, although you may want to add some essential amino acids and vitamins to it.
- YPD and other mediums to grow yest cultures. Just like LB, make sure you supplement - another bonus, YPD smells a lot better than LB.
- Dulbecco's Modified Eagles Medium. If it's good enough for tissue culture cells, it's good enough for us. Now you may say, "but we add either calf serum or fetal bovine serum to our media" yes but mostly for the growth factors. It must be said that serum is a good source of protein. Many people eat/drink blood products. We weren't sure if we should cook it first. Any ideas? Recipes? (Serum bouillon over a moderate Bunsen burner flame?)
- You could grow your own food. Plant labs may have an advantage, although I'm not sure what Arabidopsis tastes like. It's in the cabbage/cress/mustard family so it can't be too bad (any of you out there tried it?). I would not try to eat lab grown bacteria. Yeast is a possibility. In fact, if you were organized enough you could ferment some sugars and produce some nasty lab-moonshine. Fly and worm labs ... have fun. Mice? I guess on a spear over a flame they would be edible (meat is meat after all.) They would probably be a pain to skin. I guess rats would be preferable as the volume to surface ratio would be higher.
- Then there are the items at the bottom of the -80'C. Frozen tissue samples, homogenized liver, tubulin preps, lyophilized antibodies, DNA stocks, microsome preps. My guess is that it probably would be best to stay away from those items.

Any other ideas or suggestions?


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Don't forget about calories - they'll be the most limiting. You've probably got lots of glucose. Some of the other sugars may send your intestinal bacteria into a tizzy... Glycerol is probably OK. You may have an old bottle of starch (for starch gels); you can boil it up with water and sugar to make pudding.

LB usually has a LOT of salt added - you might be better sticking with the components yeast extract and tryptone, or cutting your LB with them.

If you have lots of carbohydrate but no protein you could grow E. coli or yeast in a minimal medium and eat them (cooked. E. coli tastes fine after it's been washed.). Otherwise it's more efficient to eat your lab resources directly.

This just doesn't work in my lab. If you can't survive in my food chemistry lab, you can't survive in a kitchen. We are well-stocked for a disaster.

One of my undergrads just made a loaf of bread and it is sitting in the lab, delibrately staling.

Mind you I don't know that I would want to eat some of the food that's in my lab. Three year old M&Ms any one?

Mice are easy to skin (you gotta do it to dissect peripheral nerves), rats not so easy. I've eaten rat before (don't ask in what country). its not bad, very similar to rabbit. Don't think I'd take it any less than well done though.

How bout using battery operated roto-homogenizers to mix up some smoothies in 50mL Falcons. Anyone doing Westerns should have tons of dry milk hanging around, mix that with some DMEM and a couple grams of sucrose and you've got a frothy, calorie and protein rich drink that I bet won't taste half bad.

By Theodore Price (not verified) on 26 Sep 2006 #permalink

The one edible lab supply that could keep me going for a very long time also happens to be the most important lab supply. On the other hand, I don't know if our -80 could fit all of my colleagues in at once...

By funkyneuron (not verified) on 27 Sep 2006 #permalink

I'd eat fly food. We make it fresh using water, agar, molasses, and yeast -- all edible. We usually have enough ingredients sitting around to make a 10-20 liters of it.

mix up agarose with boiled water, add DMEM to it for minerals and glucose. let it set. bon appetit