Visualize your DNA (well…not quite, but let’s look anyway)

· Science

A few weeks ago, I participated in an event where people were given the opportunity to make “DNA Necklaces”.

Essentially what you end up with is something that looks like white snot at the bottom of a nice “sciencey” looking centrifuge tube with numbers in milliliters (mL).  You can’t actually “see” DNA.  Even under a microscope, it would have to be magnified 10,000x.  Those kinds of magnifications are only possible with various flavors of electron microscopes.  Even then, it would look very blurry and grainy.  That familiar double helix ladder structure that everyone sees was put together by computational models. (Google Rosalind Frank, Watson and Crick- and SEM/TEM).

But it’s Sunday and I was bored.  I know I can’t actually see my DNA, but I wonder what I *could* see.  So I got out my trusty Celestron 44108 Compound Light Microscope with my 15x digital eyepiece and decided to put my personal slime on a slide and look.  I set up two slides – one without any dye and one which I stained with one drop of 2% Iodine.  Each slide contained 2µL (Micropippettes are fun!)

The slide without any staining was pretty much boring.  I magnified the slime from 40x and gradually increased up to 2500x with immersion oil. *yawn* – nothing to see here – moving right along.  I repeated the same procedure with the stained slides.  These were a little more interesting.  At least some structures were visible.

Here’s a slide magnified 150x.  You can see the nuclei of the cheek cells.  The nucleus is where the magic happens and it’s where the DNA is located.


As you can see, some structures become visible.  The red dots are cheek cell nuclei.  I couldn’t really see the cell membranes until I magnified the slide to 1500x


The red dot is “noise” reminding me that it’s time to clean my lenses.  But the tiny circle in the center is really a nucleus.  You can start to clearly see the cell membrane although I was disappointed that I couldn’t see any other organelles but hey… I really wasn’t trying.  This was just me being bored on a Sunday.

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