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For my colleague from Israel it was a matter of faith, when he warned me that going to the lab on a Saturday wont be favored by God. Yes I know, I said to him, but first of all I am an bloody atheist, and second this super-ambitious student in my group occupies the RealTime PCR machine every day of the week. So to check the results of my transfected cell cultures, I have to do it on the weekend. Moishe from Israel was just smiling, saying that in Israel nobody would trust any experiments which were done on a Saturday. 
I ignored his remarks, and of course came here yesterday, when Moishe was sitting at home doing the Shabbat, avoiding to manually switching on any light or cooker, let alone a computer or anything else related with work.
I was happy to do a large batch of gene-expression measurements that nicely filled an entire 96well reaction plate. I also was happy to find a new batch of the qRT-PCR master-mix, from a company which just promoted their more reliable, more sophisticated, simply cooler enzyme and fluorescence formula. Everything went pretty smooth, and after pipetting the cDNAs and the primers and the master-mix I happily quitted the "Are you sure you want to start the run" button, locked the lab door and jumped on my bike to ride home.
Today when I came to collect and analyzed the results I immediately recognised something fishy had happened. The usually very smooth and nice ordered kinetic curves all looked like the footpathes of  a crowd of drunken teens. They were jumping up and down on the diagram and simply did not made any sense at all.
So I thougth to consult the FAQ page of Agilent, the supplier of the new qRT-PCR kit I used first time on Shabbat. One question was "How much of the internal fluorescence dye standard should I add to the reaction" ? What they mean by "adding an internal fluorescence dye standard", usually all other kits we used before had this already pre-mixed. Only Agilent, for their own enigmatic reason, decided to ship it separately, and have it added by the customer himself.
The consequence of my insistence to work on the holy Saturday: I worked 2 hours for nothing, and I wasted the reagents for 96 reactions (at a price of 0,80 € per reaction plus consumables, i.e. about 100 € in total). 
I promise I wont turn to any religious faith now, but maybe I try a little bit of Superstition.


  1. As an atheist that also works during everyone else's 'holidays' or 'holy days' I thought this very humorous. On the other hand, perhaps the genetic mechanisms of your cells had decided not work on a Shabbat day. Proteins have a life too right? But what are we to do? I myself have gotten so used to getting work done on Sundays I would still reschedule any meeting with God, Aphrodite, or Professor Dumbledore until the following Tuesday. I'd love to know what are you transfecting your cells with?

  2. Hi Just-a-Peasant, the effect you suggest that cells grown in a lab environment follow a day-to-day variation may be not completely out-of-the-world. After feeding them with fresh nurtrients and growth factors, they seem to adopt a synchronous march through the cell-cycle for at least a day, sometimes even longer. But that they "know" which day of the week we have is of course very speculative. What might, however cause a variation from weekdays to Saturday/Sunday is the absence of many nuisances at the weekend. During an ordinary day, the incubator is opened and closed by users several times (some folks even use to BANG the door after putting back the cells). This causes disturbances to the cells not only by mechanical aggitation, but also by fluctuations in temperature and gas composition. So I would not be completely surprised to see that cells grow differently on a weekend as compared to ordinary working days.
    But apart from this potentially rational influences of daily variations, I am indeed awfully superstitious. I avoid to throw away anything that has still the potential to live. I would never sacrifice a lab animal simply because the experiment is finished or because the breeding produced too many mice in excess. Instead, I use to wait for a nice sunny day and release the surpluse mice in the fields and bushes around the institute (I hope nobody of the veterinary authorities can read this, since it is of course illegal). Even with the cells grown in vitro I am always reluctant to throw anything in the waste-bin. I prefer to freeze them away so they could have a second life years later (of course sometimes they have to wait for this till eternity).
    I am currently working with mesenchymal stem cells and try to understand how genetic factors and environmental stress changes their therapeutic potential and influences their long term genetic stability. For this I transfected them with an antisense siRNA to inhibit Rb1, a gene we have identified earlier as important for chromosomal stability in other cell types.
    best greetings