Life Sciences in the Apocalypse

Thought experiment no.1: If you were trapped at work during the zombie apocalypse, how long could you survive on lab reagents?

  • drink tissue culture medium like soup. Add BSA (bovine serum albumin), or Western blot blocking reagent (skim milk), or FBS (foetal bovine serum) for added protein and flavour
  • make jelly with agar, agarose, and gelatin flavoured with sucrose
  • drink carboxymethyl cellulose as a source of fibre so you don’t get constipated
  • unfortunately you would be very short of lipid foods in the average TC lab, hopefully drinking FBS and human serum if you have it would provide sufficient for health
  • if you have any biotinylated antibodies you could drink them as a source of vitamin B7 but the quantity will probably not last long- eat mice, washed down with molecular biology ethanol

Thought experiment no.2: The zombie apocalypse has burnt itself out and you are the sole living biologist among the few survivors. You ate all the nontoxic stuff in your lab. How do you restart life sciences diagnostics and biomanufacturing in your house?

  • steal an old fashioned pressure cooker to use as an autoclave (cannot Instant Pot, no electricity)
  • get a stupid cat that knows how to catch mice but not kill them quickly so you can start a mouse breeding programme
  • build a shed with a tall chimney that catches the wind for doing biohazard work in unidirectional air flow so you don’t die
  • culture bacteria on food grade agar-agar and sterilised potato
  • (you cannot use food grade agar to run DNA gels because it’s too wavy – trust me I have tried this because I wanted to know why molecular biology grade agarose is so expensive)
  • try to find some cows and bulls that haven’t been eaten by zombies so you can get foetal bovine serum. Of course this part will take many years until the herd is big enough to harvest sustainably, therefore, you won’t be able to do mammalian tissue culture for a long time
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