Almost a Moses moment

Last year, we started a project to modify a cancer cell in such a way that it would be “visible” in a living mouse. Having such a cancer cell would allow us to track it and understand better how it metastasizes (or travels) to other locations in the body.

The project depended heavily on a tool called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In case, you don’t know what PCR is, you can read about it by clicking here.

Well, research is already inherently unpredictable and rarely does it follow the course that is charted out in the planning phase. I thought the project would take a month.

A few months later, . . . actually several months later, I was running into all kinds of unexplainable results. “Am I doing research, or trying to solve the Bermuda Triangle?” Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but the project definitely was hitting a brick wall.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic started to have its effect in our lab. As I ran out of pipette tips, which are the equivalent of some very common office supplies, e.g., printer ink or toner, or paper clips, I tried to order more. “Out of stock,” “backordered,” “not available,” were displayed next to the needed item. After experiencing the same thing at various websites, I started to call some of them. I found out, there was truly an increase in demand – everyone was doing PCR, across the globe. One supplier even told me that the raw materials to make the pipette tips (plastic) was even becoming scarce. After several months, we finally got some pipette tips, legally, too.

(click here to read more about how the shortage is affecting research and patient care)

(photo credit of pipette tips with glowing yellow light and more about the pipette tip shortage: click here)

Well, 437 days and 667 PCR reactions later, we had a momentous breakthrough on October 27, 2021. We finally created a cancer cell that can be tracked in the mouse body!

I was immediately reminded of Moses in the Old Testament Bible.

By Sébastien Bourdon

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:1-5

Okay, it was not quite as dramatic. Nevertheless, I was jumping up and down saying, “THANK YOU, GOD, thank you!!” Indeed, He is the God who reveals secrets.

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