Sentient cells

Table of Contents

Lab tour given to a newly recruited lab assistant.   The latest state-of-the-art material used in experiments is cells harvested from living organisms. You've probably read all about it in the Processes of the Académie des Sciences or of the Royal Society, yet you better forget about everything you've read talking about "easy experiments" and "quick results" and listen attentively. If you mess up the cultures, you'll be the source of the next batch of cells.  


Cells are collected from a specific organ or tissue of a living organism. The most popular are mice, rats, pigs, monkeys, and of course humans. Once a sample has been taken, the cells are immediately put in a culture flask with a saline buffer of the correct pH. Usually, this is 150 mM NaCl, with an addition of 50 mM Tris to allow for a buffering of the pH at 7.4, which is the pH of the blood.   Ideally the flask kept on ice until the lab can be reached and the culture hooked up to the equipment. If you have been a bad assistant and got all your ice to melt before that, you better know how to run fast. Once the cell are set up, you need to quickly deliver the first spark of magic to trigger their growth and to light the coal furnace linked to the equipment. If you see the cells fizzle and suddenly feel strange entities looking at you, don't worry it just mean that the magic has awakened the cells and given them sentience.
Cell being harvested from a goat in a perfectly ethical manner...


The cells need very precise growth temperatures—usually 37°C—good O2 and CO2 levels—and so an opening in their flask to be able to breath it—agitation of the flask to give all cells acces to gases and food, a medium containing all the right food they would have access to when they were still part of their original organism—blood harvested from that organism with the clots filtered out of it usually do the job—and some wards to protect them against invasion by pathogens and parasites. All of these requirements force us to cultivate the cells in glass flasks inscribed with control runes, with the flasks inside big metal containers covered with ritual circles that are themselves powered by a steam machine and a coal furnace.   Some scientists always complain that the cells creepily watch them with their magic and observe what they're doing in the lab. And all right, there might be some truth in that. But science has never been for the faint of heart. What's truly bothersome however is how the cells are always super uncooperative and spoilt, wanting their food to be just so, often growing addicted to expensive supplements that actually do nothing for their health. A far too common problems is the cells just refusing to grow out of spite! And we have no choice but to fall for such disgusting blackmail and to submit to their every whim and tantrum. And if you try to resist them, then they can even go so far as to kill themselves right in their flasks!
Cell culture by AmélieIS
And you never know what could happen. Sentience, surrounded by so much magic... Let's just say that there has been rumours. Rumours of cells gaining a little bit more abilities over time. Oh, we've all seen them change colours with their mood when we keep the same culture going on for too long or make weird shape in their flask, but I mean something more. Or scientists suddenly disappearing and only a broken cell culture flask left behind... That's why you better take care when you count the number of time you passage cells to not let a culture grow too much.   What's passaged? It means that you take a small amount of a cell culture and put in a new flask, then you add more growth buffer to reduce their concentration and give them room to grow. Cells are endlessly growing and so need to be passaged regularly or they'll feel stifled and die. Though you've got to be careful, each type of cells has a different character and prefer a different dilution. Some need a lot of room to feel important, while others are shy and need to hold hands with their friends before they feel secure enough to grow. Learn to now your little divas!
Suspisious traces by AmélieIS


As all other scientists, you're only going to be too eager to reach the end of the cell culture phase of your experiment and to get to harvest all those cells. An intense sonification to make them burst open and harvest their entrails is just what those cells need to learn who is the boss! Try to do that right in front of the other culture flasks to enhance their cooperation. If the cells have been particularly annoying, use some lysis solution instead of sonification. This takes 10 to 20 minutes to open the cells. Sweet revenge for all the troubles they'll have given you!   Like you'll have undoubtedly read, while we culture the cells we force feed them with special genetic materials that make them produce a desire molecule, such as a medical compound, a drug or a poison. So once you've got access to the cells' content, you can proceed to purify what you need inside of them. Always prepare a lot more cells that what you think you'll need because purification is especially messy and it will always give lots of troubles and lost molecules along the way. Here in the lab we're all about experimentation and optimising methods! If you want an easy brainless job, go work at a manufactory! But don't be surprised if the bosses there their culture cells better than their employees...
Sonication by AmélieIS

See an example of experiments done with sentient cells:


Cover image: Clothilde by serezniy on DepositPhotos


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2 Jul, 2022 17:40

Your anger at your cells at work is really showing here... :D   That said, it's a really fun article and I love all details about the cells gaining sentience for their sudden yet inevitable revenge. And the art! That cell-blending smoothie is my favorite, especially with all the fun little faces :D   Great work!

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
3 Jul, 2022 21:41

Thanks :D "Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental" :p Those murderous little cells are cute, and they wouldn't be half as annoying if they did not kill themselves out of spite :( I'm definitely going to have fun with them in my story XD

To see what I am up to, see the list of my Summer Camp articles—my favourite is Sentient Cells.
Grandmaster nnie
Annie Stein
2 Jul, 2022 18:46

This was hillarious and a breath of fresh air! I loved the art too, it's so detailed. The difference between their little bored cell faces when they're in the machine, and when they're being blended is great!

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Join me for Camp Chill this Summercamp
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
3 Jul, 2022 21:37

Thanks :D Making those little face was really fun.

To see what I am up to, see the list of my Summer Camp articles—my favourite is Sentient Cells.
Sage eccbooks
E. Christopher Clark
6 Aug, 2022 14:30

What I love about this most is the structure. You hook me with that first paragraph, which gives the high-level fantastical conceit of the idea, and then you make me totally believe by dropping some science on me after that. Really well done!

Check out my progress for Summer Camp 2022
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
7 Aug, 2022 07:30

Thanks! I hope the science was not too much XD This article was mostly me ranting about my work and my cells dying on me all the time XD Though I'm not at all an evil scientist I swear...

To see what I am up to, see the list of my Summer Camp articles—my favourite is Sentient Cells.
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