Even though this is supposed to be a food blog, I decided to show off my fluorescent zebrafish embryos in my first post because I’m damn proud of them.  After a month of trying to inject morpholinos (basically a molecule used to knockdown a specific protein), I finally got the technique down.  The whole process is actually quite simple.  I take freshly fertilized eggs in the one cell stage, stick them under the microscope, use the injector to pump a minuscule amount of liquid into the yolk through a tiny needle, and voila, I should get morphants.  Just don’t deflate the egg.  Or burst the embryo.  Or clog the needle.  Or break the needle.  I’m proud to say these babies only took me half an hour to inject (compared to the two hours I spent the first time trying to get through one batch).

For these, I injected a plasmid containing the GFP sequence.  I was so surprised it actually worked. They’re actually GREEN.  Heck, they’re actually ALIVE.  If I could print this out in color and hang it on my desk, I would.  If you can’t tell what you’re looking at, these are embryos still contained within their transparent chorions (“egg shell”).  They’re curled around what looks like a big ball, which is the yolk sac.

Of course, borrowing a phrase someone once used, “this is hardly publication quality.” The fluorescence is actually quite faint and only a few embryos are expressing the protein.  Probably because I diluted the initial mixture too much before I injected it.  But those are just minor technicalities.  What matters is that I FEEL like a scientist!

Seems silly to be excited over GFP fish, but it’s kind of amazing to think that the embryo can survive being punctured (often, repeatedly) by a fumbling needle and still survive, AND express the protein that we want it to.  Although not as impressive when I consider how many injections are done each week.

Apparently, there is a machine that has this whole process automated, mechanically lining up the embryos and injecting each one.  Basically, my boss can buy one of those machines to replace me.  But come on, who needs a fancy shmancy machine when you can ruin the eyes and backs of young research techs?  Besides, a machine can’t treat these embryos with the lovin’ they deserve.

So I guess I can add “Zebrafish embryo injection” to my slowly growing repertoire of lab skills.