The Wall of Polio, version 3.0

Wall of Polio 3.0Back in 2013 I built a Wall of Polio in my laboratory – a large stack of six-well cell culture plates that have been used to measure the concentration of polioviruses in various samples by plaque assay. It became a focal point of the lab at which many guests came to have their photographs taken. Sadly, the Wall fell twice. Now a new Wall – version 3.0 – has been completed.

The new Wall of Polio is in my office at Columbia University Medical Center, where it will not annoy the Fire Inspector (the former Wall partially blocked an aisle). Furthemore, the new Wall is glued together, so it will not come apart. Its construction is documented in the photographs below. The Wall of Polio 3.0 is built with 1,464 six-well plates of HeLa cells that were used to determine the titer of poliovirus. We have also already had a number of visitors to Wall 3.0.

Because the Wall is impressive, it attracts attention, which can then be used to explain the plaque assay and determining virus titer. Therefore it is simply another tool that I used to teach the world about virology.

When you visit, expect that I will ask to photograph you before the Wall. Only a few have refused.

 

The wall of polio

Polio wall of fameThe Polio Wall of Fame (pictured) is a set of fifteen sculptured busts of 17 individuals who made important contributions to understanding and preventing poliomyelitis. The busts are mounted on an exterior wall of Founder’s Hall at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation in Warm Springs, Georgia, USA.

In my laboratory we have a slightly different wall – we call it The Wall of Polio. It consists of a collection of six-well cell culture plates that have been used to measure the concentration of polioviruses in various samples by plaque assay.

The plaque assay is one of the most important procedures in virology for measuring the virus titer – the concentration of viruses in a sample. This technique was first developed to calculate the titers of bacteriophage stocks. Renato Dulbecco modified this procedure in 1952 for use in animal virology, and it has since been used for reliable determination of the titers of many different viruses.

We love the plaque assay so much that we cannot bear to throw away the plates after they have been counted. They reside in various nooks and crannies in the laboratory, but one creative use has been to construct a wall – think of Legos using cell culture plates. When a visitor comes to the lab, I photograph them in front of the Wall of Polio (sign inspired by Pink Floyd). When you visit don’t be surprised when I ask to photograph you in front of the Wall of Polio.

Update from my postdoctoral scientist Rea: The wall has >1000 plates, stands over 6 ft tall, and contains data from only one experiment which took me almost 4 months to do. Credit goes to Brenda Raud for the sign, construction and design, and some plates too!