If you visit JMM this week, you will be able to see three very meticulous scientists, covered in scrubs, gloves and lab coats (and colourful crocs), working in the Ancient DNA lab located in the basement. Working with ancient DNA requires a lot of care and precision. As this kind of DNA is very old, we can’t afford to contaminate it at all. Before going into the ancient DNA lab, we go through the protocol very carefully (I’m not supposed to sneeze while I’m in there. And if I really have to, I have to go outside the lab). Before starting any step, we bleach the working area, to make it as sterile as possible. Every tube that will interact with our samples undergoes UV filtration. Every move has to be monitored. I am very glad that I am getting hands on experience of working in a lab which requires so much rigor and care (and sometimes, patience).
Ancient DNA analyses rely on the extraction of the tiny amounts of DNA remaining in samples that are hundreds to tens of thousands of years old. We ground up our bone and teeth samples from the Giant Beaver fossils, making them as amorphous as possible. The DNA extraction process is 3 days long. We are done with days 1 and 2. The DNA extraction process includes sample preparation, DNA release, DNA binding, washing, and elution. Today is day 3. We’ve kept our samples in the thermo cycler and will be running them through the gel tomorrow. We really hope that we get some significant amounts of DNA from these. Keep your fingers crossed.