ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE LAB: THE “REVIVARIN” STORY, WITH FIGURES
Once upon a time, I was working in lab late into the night. Late I say. So late that I was having trouble focusing both eyes in the same focal plane at the same time. Of course it also could have been from staring into the fluorescence microscope for 26 hours strait, and getting ready for the big conference that was coming up.
The new drug I was studying, Revivarin, was not working consistently, and I was beginning to think that my presentation at the upcoming meeting would be a festival of laughter and ridicule, rather than the prelude to a Nobel Prize. Figure 1 shows the cellular atrocities facing me at 2:45 in the AM. Not only did Revivarin not revive my cells; it turned two of them into multinucleate blobs and two of them into some kind of corn-husk looking things.
I felt like a rug had been pulled out from under me. I felt alone in a snowy wilderness full of dead trees and devoid of useful data (see Figure 2). I walked into the white death, all the while dreaming of the glittering metropolis where the scientific conference was to take place just days from now (see Daydream Figure 3). I thought that I would be floating on air at that conference (see Metaphorical Figure 4). I thought I would be jumping for joy (see also Figure 4) as thousands came to hear my talk on the marvels of Revivarin – the drug that can bring dead cells back to life! I thought I would be on TV (seen Figure 5), and on the radio, and in the newspapers, and so on.
But, alas, I had put the chicken before the egg (see Figure 6). I had daydreamed of success, but not obtained the proof needed for it. My ass was grass and Revivarin was the lawnmower (see also Figure 6). The logic of the process was perturbed. It was all wrong. The wiring in my brain was crossed and short-circuited in ways that were almost impossible to untangle (see Figure 7). I tried to see things clearly, to follow what seemed like a logical, organized process (see also Figure 7), but the connections were anything but logical. I was in despair. My only daydream now was one of loneliness (see Figure 8.): a vision of walking away from it all, alone, while the rest of the scientists at the conference chortled and sniggered about the joke that was my Revivarin.
But, perhaps logic was not the answer. The clear, mathematical, orderly thought sequence of the physical chemist might not be the correct process to use for cell biology. I envisioned a wholly different wiring diagram for my brain; one based less on order and logic, and more on emotion, and free association, and randomness (see Figure 9). Soon my 3 AM fog actually began to clear, and I felt, starting from within my solar plexus, the egg of an idea (see Figure 10). By re-wiring my thought process I had reversed the chicken-egg dilemma that had thwarted my progress.
I could bearly contain myself (Figure 11: a fine pun, surely, but also a sensitive dendrite on the neuron of Revivarin: for as all Revivarin researchers know: the drug works best on polar bear fibroblast cell line: PBF-101). The answer, of course, was not to increase the concentration of Revivarin, but to reduce it to 0.7% (see Figure 12). The opposite of how one might logically proceed! I had hit the nail on the head! I had found the diamond on the end of the weird brown stick thing (see Figure 13)! I felt like I had seen the glowing outline of a Christ-like figure emerging from an ice cave (see Figure 14).
My brainwaves went crazy with excitement (see Figure 15), and I started the experiments with the 0.7% Revivarin solution immediately. Within minutes the cells revived (see Figure 16)! They were alive again, and so was my career as a cell biologist! My daydream of floating on my success (from Figure 4) came back to me, but it was different now, it was changed: now there were dinosaurs (see Figure 17). And that’s when I knew – at 3:22 AM in the morning, with my right eye and my left eye focusing in different optical planes — that two days from now, I would be giving the most important scientific presentation of my career.
Figure 1. PBF-101 cells treated with 1.0% Revivarin. Magnification scale is “large,” and green fluorescence signifies “alive”. Fluorescent staining was accomplished by breaking open one of those glow-in-the-dark tube-things and carefully adding 100 microlters of whatever that stuff is to each liter of cell culture.
Figure 2. Winter. Cold. Death. Walking in ankle-deep snow. Shoes and socks will be wet for the rest of the day (for the next four months, actually). Depression. Lack of sunlight. Need sleep. Need potatoes. Starch.
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Figure 4. An unnamed biological researcher floating in microgravity on NASA’s astronaut training plane. The white patches over each “titty” (NASA technical bodypart designator # EE70822-102) are plastic vomit bags, open and ready for use.
Figure 5. A television antenna, circa 1964. Before cable companies took over the world by purchasing every animate and inanimate object on the planet with their vast, almost unfathomable wealth, television signals used to be freely broadcast through the air.
Figure 6. WTF ? In this figure it can be clearly seen that there are some large chickens with lawnmowers. Approach with extreme caution.
Figure 7. Blueprint for the first successful rewiring of a human brain using old stereo speaker wire. The left and right panels show the before and after surgery diagrams, respectively and/or vice versa. This historic operation was performed in a makeshift, partially sterile facility constructed in Room 48 (Second Floor) of the North Dallas Super-8 Motel (from Interstate 10, take the FM180 exit and go right for 0.5 miles). Speaker wire was provided gratis by Radio Shack (store # 4188, Steel-Horse Shopping Plaza, North Dallas, TX, next to the Dave & Busters’ Sports Bar).
Figure 8. Don’t you hate it when some moron takes a random, subject-less picture with your camera? Or maybe you do it yourself: you know, you’re taking the thing out of its case and you accidentally snap a picture of who knows what, and you’re thinking “Crap, I wonder what that’s going to look like?” Well, it’s going to look something like this, except not in focus.
Figure 9. Analog brain wiring diagram. This diagram was adapted from several figures published by Swasher and associates at the University of Berlin. Swasher, et al., conducted a meta-analysis of over 280 brain wiring diagrams published in the scientific literature over a ten year period and concluded that a two or three year old child could deduce the wiring of the brain with almost as much accuracy.
Figure 10. A nest of the elusive Ebony-billed Woodpecker (which sometimes cross-breeds with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker). The Ebony-billed Woodpecker (EBW) lives entirely indoors, most commonly in older condominiums and apartments. They frequently build their nests on the windowsills in their apartments so that the egg gets a lot of sunlight. It is believed that this warms the egg, which frees up the bird from having to sit on it all day. This adaptive behavior is theorized to have allowed the EBW enough free time to find gainful daytime employment, which, in turn, allows it to pay its rent.
Figure 11. Charles, an 11 year old polar bear, and the primary source of Polar Bear Fibroblast cell line PBF-101. First successfully cultured by Ansen and associates, the PBF-101 cell line is widely used in research on drugs that are believed to restore life to the dead. When this picture was taken, Charles was living at the St. Louis Zoo, in St. Louis, Missouri. Due to his high biotechnological value, however, Charles is frequently moved from zoo to zoo around the world, and his current whereabouts are known to only a select group of researchers.
Figure 12. The number “0.7%” turned on its side. A 90-degree clockwise rotation solves the clever, unbreakable code that prevents this number from being read in its sideways conformation.
Figure 13. WTF 2, the sequel. Question: What is long, brown, and sticky? Answer: A stick.
Figure 14. An ice cave with Jesus or an angel coming out of it. After wandering in the icy dark of winter for many hours (see Figure 2), the brain begins to freeze. The alternating hard (partially frozen) and soft (still not frozen) portions of the brain can induce significant rewiring of neural circuits (see also Figure 9), such that the snowbound wanderer can experience religious visions, alien abductions, solutions to differential equations, and strategies to achieve world peace and the end of poverty. Upon thawing, these aberrant neural circuits usually return to normal.
Figure 15. Brainwaves. Duh.
Figure 16. PBF-101 cells after treatment with 0.7% Revivarin. As before (Figure 1), magnification level is “large,” and the green fluorescence indicates “alive”.
Figure 17. Floating. Duh.