What is meant by the UV disaster?


If nobody wants to read my articles anymore, maybe I will switch. Labor exorcist seems to me to be a profession with a future. Clonings that stubbornly defy all current techniques, sequencing that mysteriously break off after the thirty-fifth base: calamity is always and everywhere. Secure my services today, ideally with a lucrative exclusive contract, tomorrow it could already be too late! No results, no publications, no job - life is too short to take unnecessary risks !!! Serious inquiries only, please - for felt-tip pens that miraculously disappear and similar hocus-pocus, please contact the sinister figure who works next to you.


... Like a deep blue sea ..

One of those persistent myths is that of the blue light. Admittedly, I'm a little late with that, after all, VW has only recently dealt intensively with the topic on advertising television, but perhaps one or the other of the explosive nature of the core message escaped. The fact is, blue light has an incredibly calming effect on scientists, especially those who work in cell culture. At the end of a successful working day in this profession, you need to grab the two light switches, one that silences the neon tubes and the other that brings the UV lamps to life. And while you are leaving the institute exhausted and exhausted, a last look at the blue illuminated facade shows that the evil microbes are now up there on the collar. In peace and quiet, you can put yourself behind the bandage and tell a few selected colleagues what nonsense this incompetent gnome named Boss “has secreted again today.

The reality is rather different. Have you ever noticed that German living rooms are also often illuminated in blue? This is neither for disinfection nor for extermination of the inmates, but for their entertainment and many of them pay a lot of money for it, especially the subscribers of Premiere World. The situation is similar in the cell culture laboratories. While the scientist is slumbering, the bacteria enjoy the original party lighting and the mushrooms dance the polka. The only thing they don't think about is dying because the lamps shine blue, but not ultraviolet - and nobody notices!

The reason for this is the good Lord, who apparently did not waste a thought on man when creating the world and who, in his infinite meanness, made the ultraviolet light invisible! As if that wasn't enough, he also made sure that UV lamps, regardless of their actual purpose, also glow blue. Then one or two neurons in the scientist's brain were specifically paralyzed and, since then, generations of laboratory criminals have been convinced that they are doing something good for their cell culture if they bathe it in blue light at night.

UV is not just UV. Ultraviolet is light with wavelengths in the range from 10 to 400 nm. This large range is known to be divided into UVA (315-400 nm), which ensures tanning in the solarium, and UVB (280-315 nm), which causes sunburn and UVC (200-280 nm), the most interesting range for laboratory use. This radiation has the license to kill! For the sake of completeness, the black light (345-400 nm) should be mentioned, which brings out the embarrassing white scales on the black pullover so beautifully in the disco, so it is also of considerable relevance for the young researcher. Black light also shimmers a bit blue, which tells you that the tube is burning, but unfortunately gives no indication of how much good UVC light the same tube is still producing.


... holding back the tears,
holding back the pain ...

There are already various options for measuring the functionality of your UV lights without much effort: Put your hand in the blue for a quarter of an hour. If the skin starts to burn terribly a short time later and takes on a hue between singed-pig-pink and I-chop-off-my-hand-red, then the lamp is probably still in order. The visual test is quicker and clearer: look into the radiant tube for five minutes (without glasses). If you do not spend the following night in the emergency room of the nearest hospital, with red, watery eyes and supported by a guide for the blind, then the tube must be replaced.

Joking aside, there are also less painful ways to get some idea of ​​the effectiveness of the radiation: Place plastic objects in the cell culture. After a few days, plexiglass becomes brittle and crumbles. The wet sock test (in the Anglo-Saxon language area Burlington Hydro test) uses this effect: place a thin-walled water bath as fully as possible under the lamp and only enter the cell culture room with Birkenstock sandals. If your feet feel damp, everything is fine. The researcher with style uses a special form of the wet sock test: he places the expensive plastic bottles with PBS under the lamp. If it works, the bottles break between his fingers when he is opened, soak socks and laboratory coat and again the researcher knows: everything is in order. The color test with white pipettes does not leave quite as impressive a mark on the researcher's mind: they turn yellow.

On the other hand, it is simply profane to buy a UV meter. In addition, they are so expensive that you should be prepared to measure the tubes at least once a day so that the purchase is worthwhile. It would be best if the relevant industry could design cheap test strips in the style of pH indicator paper, with which the functionality of the UV lamps could be measured with little effort. It would be enough to get a rough idea of ​​their killer effect (that's serious, dear industry).

As long as there is no revolution in this area, we can only recommend all those who are about to redesign their cell culture to couple the UV lamps with a timer. If the tubes are OK, a quarter of an hour of lighting is enough to eliminate most of the small items - with the exception of some extremely resistant spores (and cockroaches). Those who like it particularly clever can fully automate the process by letting the lights go on at three o'clock every night - those who are still working at this time deserve to be grilled. That helps a lot for the life of the lamps - theoretically, you should get by for five to ten years with one set of tubes. And the inventory also thanks you for it.


... when the morning comes
I'll be far away ...

In the event that all of this is not really convincing, I will give you a small sample calculation on the way. According to the manufacturer, a commercially available UV tube should be replaced after approx. 1000 operating hours. Assuming you are one of the particularly thorough and you regularly switch your little light on every evening at six and in the morning again at eight and leave it on for the whole weekend, then this point in time will already be reached after two months. Speaking of which: When was the last time YOU replaced your UV tubes?

On the other hand: Maybe it would be better to let the lights burn through the night. The institutes, which are shrouded in a mysterious blue at night, make a tremendous impression on ordinary people. It just looks like crazy busy and professional. Between us: Doesn't that more than outweigh the uselessness of doing this?

Finally, a word on my own behalf. If one or the other tried unsuccessfully to send me an email in the past, it could have been due to the wrong address. Most people are a little generous with my name (including some lab journal editors!), But computers are not. A little “h” too much and the message comes back standepede. Do yourself, me, and thousands of tortured people with unusual names a favor and make sure you spell the word correctly: cornel. [email protected]