- Insulin: From its humble beginnings as a pig pancreas extraction to the molecular methodology used today, the discovery and generation of this simple protein has led to a great improvement in the quality of life for millions. Getting diagnosed is no longer a death sentence - a transition that will hopefully happen with many of the other diseases we struggle with today.
- Golden Rice: Golden Rice’s brilliance comes from more than just its color. Hundreds of thousands of children die every year of vitamin A deficiency, a completely avoidable outcome. In comes, Golden Rice, a genetically engineered organism made to produce over 23 times more beta-carotene than normal rice.
- Cloning/subcloning: It’s so common place today that it’s odd to think of a time when we weren’t able to insert and ligate whatever sequence of DNA we favored and slap it into a vector. It’s always satisfying to see those little blue and white colonies.
- CRISPR-cas9: Although bacteria have been using this for eons, we’ve just recently been able to adapt this nuclease for our own purposes. Using both gRNA and the cas9 nuclease, it’s able to cause a double-stranded break and insert (or disrupt) any fragment of DNA. From bacteriology to food science to genetics to anything in between, this shows great promise to do fantastic things!
- Sanger sequencing: Even with the progression of technology to Second Generation and Third Generation, Sanger sequencing still has a stable presence in the scientific community. In a field where antiquated techniques are left by the wayside, that means a lot.
- X-ray crystallography: Thanks to Rosalind Franklin, we know the structure of life itself: DNA! Watson and Crick wouldn’t have been able to do it without her.
- Immortalized cell lines: Although ethical concerns were raised in the gathering of some lines, like HeLa, I’m honestly not sure where medical science would be without them. After primary cell lines have long petered out, these guys keep going for, well, forever, making them an obvious choice for both virological and immunological studies.
- Thermocycler: Not only does it amplify your area of interest in the sequence, it gives you the perfect amount of time to grab a coffee and go on a walk! Win-win.
- Flow Cytometry: Sorting your cells based on scatter since 1968! Although reading the data output certainly takes some getting used to, it’s definitely better than separating all those cells by hand.
- Autoclave: Some really gross things come through a lab. From that weird thing growing on the old PhD student’s project to all those E. coli plates after a successful transformation, the autoclave assures you that it’s not going to haunt you later. It’s definitely one of the hardest workers in the lab—when it isn’t out-of-order.