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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Mid-century RNA

by Megha Satyanarayana
September 16, 2021


A gloved hand holding a decades-old bottle of ribonucleic acid.
Credit: Subha Das

While cleaning out his –20 ˚C freezer, Subha Das uncovered this bottle of ribonucleic acid isolated from yeast. Das, a chemistry expert at Carnegie Mellon University, picked up the bottle several years ago while rummaging through the leftovers of a colleague’s lab after he retired. The reagent is remarkable for a couple of reasons, Das says. One, it’s never been opened, so in theory, it might still be usable. And two, while doing a little detective work to figure out when this bottle was filled, Sigma-Aldrich told him that the Sigma-only label was still in use after the 1975 merger of the two companies. So, the (hard-to-see) handwritten date in the upper right hand corner of the label, 7/17/1980, is likely close to when the reagent was actually made, he says. The other date, 1955, is a reference to the RNA isolation method used to extract the genetic material while minimizing degradation from ever-present enzymes called nucleases. Das has a bottle of RNA from 2020 that he thinks he could test against the relic to see how intact it actually is, but he’s loathe to open this laboratory relic.

Credit: Subha Das

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