Thursday, November 28, 2013

DNA Nail Art

Hey there!  Now I recognize that today's post is going to appeal to approximately 0.00001% of the population but I was so proud of it I just had to share it.  I even posted a picture of my nails on my personal Facebook which I've only done once before (for my Breaking Bad nails) since a lot of my friends are scientists too.  So here you go with a science lesson and the geekiest nail art ever...DNA nails!

I started with kind of a purple-pink ombre.  From pinky to thumb they are Picture Polish Violet Femme, Zoya Audrina, China Glaze That's Shore Bright, Picture Polish Twinkle and A England Iseult.  Then I started geeking out...  For those of you that don't know I have a PhD in genetics & molecular biology (I swear I'm not showing off, just explaining the motivation for these) so I spend all my work days playing with DNA.  This was my attempt to mix my work with my nail polish hobby.

On my pinky, is my representation of a "gel" also known as DNA electrophoresis which is a technique to separate DNA based on the size of the fragments.  If you've ever seen an ad for personalized DNA art, this is what you'd get.  In this case, my fragments were white acrylic paint then Color Club What A Shock! to make the green super neon because that's how the DNA glows under UV light when you have a certain chemical in your gel.  Here's a picture of a gel that I ran last week on the UV.  I hope I didn't fry my phone's camera exposing it to straight UV (I was wearing a mask so my eyes were safe).

An example of DNA electrophoresis

On my ring finger is the chemical structure of DNA, as best as I could do trying to draw tiny little hexagons and pentagons with my nail art brush with acrylic paint.  The white is the deoxyribose backbone of the DNA (with little green dots to indicate the phosphate groups) and the black are the bases (the A's C's G's and T's) that pair with each other to make DNA double stranded.  

On my middle finger, I tried to show a pair of chromosomes with banding, hence they look like zebras.  People that look at actual chromosomes like this use a stain to create a banding pattern so you can differentiate between chromosomes, create a "karyotype" and look for abnormalities.  I'm not actually sure if anyone still uses this technique since it's not what I do at all.  I tried to do it once in an undergrad lab with my own cells but it was a massive failure.  Here's what real chromosomes look like.

image source

On my index finger is the infamous double helix of DNA.  This one was easy because there's plates that have this now (hooray!).  I used an image from Bundle Monster BM-409.

My favorite finger, by far, was my thumb.  On it I have a representation of the X-ray diffraction pattern of DNA which was how it was determined that DNA really is a double helix.  I won't even pretend to understand how they could determine the structure from this image but they did.  And there was a lot of controversy surrounding it.  Namely, a female scientist named Rosalind Franklin was instrumental in the work (James Watson and Francis Crick used her images) but wasn't included as an author on the paper.  In science, your success is sadly measured almost entirely by papers.  And by the time Watson, Crick and Wilkins won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for their work, Franklin had passed away and was therefore not eligible to be included.    

image source

So there you have it.  Science and nail polish all mixed up.  Hopefully I didn't bore you to tears.  

'Til next time.

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