My long time collaborator, media artist Anne Niemetz and I will be spending a few weeks with Oron Catts and the students and researchers at SymbioticA in April 2011 and I gotta to say I’m very excited about it. Anyway, this has inspired me to start working on a little project directly related to yesterday’s post on consumables. I’m not exactly sure what the plan is but I will be using LEGO pieces, most likely the mini figures, as a platform for the growth of genetically modified human cells expressing fluorescent jellyfish proteins - essentially abominations of nature - to mass-produce identical sculptures composed of plastic and disposable biology. LEGO pieces are NOT bio-compatible, they are mass produced and are an interesting representation of the plastic, disposable lifeforms we make in the lab everyday. This project is clearly inspired by the work of Oron Catts’ and Ionat Zurr’s Tissue Culture and Art Project and is pretty much ‘homework’ for my visit to SymbioticA. But before getting too heady about the whole thing, I’m an experimentalist and first I’m going to figure out if I can grow cells on LEGO (surprisingly Google hasn’t helped me here).
LEGO is a little hydrophobic so I’m going to start by trying to adsorb collagen (an extra-cellular matrix protein that cells attach to, abundant in skin and tissues) to the pieces. I’m not sure if this will work without plasma treating the LEGO first but here goes.
First, I’m going to coat a flat portion of a LEGO door with collagen at a surface concentration of 5ug/cm2 using our lab’s collagen stock solutions above (diluted in 0.02M Acetic Acid). The collagen stock solution is placed on ~4cm2 of LEGO door for 1 hour at room temperature on the bench.
After an hour I UV sterilize the door, wash with copious amounts of PBS and let it air dry. During that time I grab my HeLa cells, split them and then add 200 uL of a dense cell suspension to the area which has been coated with collagen. I can see that the collagen has adsorbed to the surface of the LEGO door because PBS solution is easily attracted to it (now its hydrophilic and will likely be cell-friendly). Then I place the door into our incubator (37C, 5% CO2 atmosphere) to allow the cells to start attaching to the surface.
After 45min I fill up the dish with lots of growth media (the red liquid) and will leave the cells overnight. In a few days I’ll know if the cells have started to proliferate on the LEGO or not. I’ll also know how non-toxic LEGO is as well.
A little blue brick is used to keep the door from floating around and the weight of a small beaker keeps everything in place. Many thanks to Dom for teaching me his collagen protocol.