Manuel Selg presented a hands-on experiment, transferring the gene coding for fluorescing protein from a jellyfish (Aequorea victoria) into harmless E.coli bacteria.
The following is an excerpt from the impressions of the masterclass penned by Stefan Schwarzmair, an infotrainer whose daily work is in the Ars Electronica Biolab.
This year I had the extraordinary pleasure to actively participate in the Master Class “Living Logic” focussing on the topic of synthetic biology as a scientific discipline as well as its artistic potential.
My task was to assist in the conduction of a workshop acquainting the participants with the basic practical aspects of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. In the course of this workshop we successfully transferred a gene coding for fluorescing protein from a jellyfish (Aequorea victoria) into harmless E.coli bacteria, the probably most prominent model organism of biology. Although this workshop could be considered classic genetic engineering, it still provided the participants with all practical essentials such as precise and clean pipetting experience as well as the know-how to handle thermal cyclers and gel electrophoresis apparatuses many other vital devices used in synthetic biology settings. The result was both technically as well as aesthetically pleasing, as it produced green fluorescing colonies of bacteria grown in petri dishes.
I personally was very satisfied that the actual transformation worked out because I know by my own professional experience how tricky these procedures may be. It was a very successful start which I felt to be also of good value to the participants, especially those without prior lab experience (there were some pros). Furthermore I liked the fertile collaboration with Manuel Selg, who I appreciate both as person as well as for his expertise and experience in the field. During the extended lunch break Manuel and I introduced the participants to the concepts of PCR (polymerase chain reaction), ligation, genetic vectors (i.e. bacterial plasmids), gene control sequences (promoters) and the central dogma of molecular biology (the processes of transcription and translation of genes into proteins). It was very enjoyable to observe this process of grasping and understanding in many of the participants. I assume that they profited quite a lot from this effective combination of theory and practice.