Four minutes a brain

22 03 2014

I spent two days last week killing our C57 mice (that’s why the DBAs are being adopted out: we don’t need to kill them for our research, and the experiment’s over so they might as well have good lives elsewhere). I was sleepless the night before: due a horribly early start to mix up some 4% PFA (never done this before and irrationally daunted); not looking forward to it; worried about the shoddy state of my dissection kit (prompting a late-night raid of our kitchen and bathroom for things that could augment it); and fretting that by myself, I wouldn’t remember how to take out brains without destroying them.

However, it went brilliantly. The knack came back immediately, and it took me just 6 minutes per mouse all day (though there are two pairs of tweezers that will now not be returning to our bathroom…). The next day, I was even faster: a steady 4 minutes per brain (speed that magically appeared overnight: it’s amazing the way sleep consolidates learning).


What also made this work go well was working with super calm and competant CAF technician Maka Natsvlishvili. Maka killed the mice with cervical dislocation, and unlike last time where I was working next to her and under red light (so couldn’t see what was going on), this time I worked opposite her and under normal light. This method really does seem near instantaneous: I’m so glad we’re doing it this way (the time between removing a mouse from its cage and it being insensible is about 5 seconds). It was nice getting to know Maka too. A vet, she’s massively overqualified for her current job, but comes from Georgia in the former USSR and never found the funds or time to do to retrain to practice in Canada (her Georgian background also meant she’d been watching the Russian annexation of Crimea with total horror…).

End result: 60 beautiful brains in PFA from differentially-raised mice we know an awful lot about (thanks to Carole for this nice photo, taken of the last batch).