The Tissue culture Lab is a designated space where, as the name implies, cells are cultured for distribution to researchers. It contains centrifuges, various types of incubators, microscopes, computers and a fume cupboard, to name but a few of the required items.
Mitchell & I donned our gowns and put on rubber gloves. During this session we frequently disinfected our gloves by spraying with alcohol. A single virus can wipe out a whole set of cultures so obviously we erred on the side of caution!
In this tray of organoid samples, removed briefly from an incubator, you can just see some cream colored circular organoids developing in the top right hand tray. (Image Trish Adams)
Now that the Biosafety requirements have been fulfilled I am able to enter the lab and begin to explore the research going on there. I attended a weekly meeting where the lab members gave updates on their research projects and immediately realised how much I have to learn!
My main focus for this Synapse project is the sensory responses of neurons using specific progenitor cells in the form of 3D in vitro cultured cellular organisms known as ‘organoids’ :
Stem cell derived 3D organoids simulate neuronal brain activity (Dottori Lab, ref. Alshawaf et al, 2018, Scientific Reports)
For me, entering a new laboratory, with all that entails, once again highlights the shifting relationship between art and science and the motivation driving artists to engage in this field. The question ‘Why Art and Science’ is central to the interdisciplinary debate and my research in this area is constantly being updated – most recently in relation to my collaboration with Mirella, presented in 2018 at SPECTRA – https://spectra.org.au/ .
Embracing the spirit of ‘what if’, my practical laboratory work frequently involves adopting the role of a ‘human guinea pig’ and experimenting on my own cells – a methodology that contravenes the so-called objectivity of accepted laboratory practices and puts me at the centre of the process. My aim is to generate empathy between the interactive artwork, derived from the scientific data, and the viewer/participant.
Entrance to the Illawarra Health & Medical Research Institute (IHMRi), University of Wollongong.
In the days when I first entered laboratories as an observer – and I’m going back over twenty years now….all it took to visit a laboratory was an initial introduction to the relevant scientists. Once introduced to the research group one could come & go as an observer, reveling in the fascinating other world of scientific exploration. For me, at this time, even routine processes such as the Northern Blot protocols were a source of creative stimulus.
Fast forward to 2019 when laboratory access has become increasingly regulated. So it comes as no surprise that, before I can embark on this Synapse residency, there is plenty of paperwork to be completed and an Admin. Orientation to undergo.
My Orientation took place yesterday, conducted by the amazingly efficient Linda Deitch – four floors of high end machines, materials and protocols for me to view and absorb – next I need to complete the on-line Biosafety & GMO(OGTR) module, with the help of the 33 page Biological Safety Manual & Guidelines !!
Then – and only then – will I be free to take up my new Honorary Fellowship and embark on my exciting Synapse research project with Mirella and her team.