Bridge Pathology – the bridge between the laboratory and the clinic.
a while ago, while sending a free mp3 to a man called Tim, i noticed from his email that he had an absurd amount of letters after his name and that he worked at Bridge Pathology. i checked out their website which said Their job is to analyse tissue samples from animals to check for diseases. i was disappointed that there wouldn’t be any dead bodies but i asked permission to come and draw next time i was in the area and Tim replied that would be fine. The lab was in a lovely area of Bristol, a perfect location for me to spend the day in between evening gigs in Cardiff and Bristol. everyone there was very friendly and they had nice coffee. the lab is split into two rooms, one for slide preparation and one for microscope analysis. after the drawings were finished Tim spent some time explaining the processes to me.
grossing station: the samples arrive in jars fill with a preserving fluid called formalin. each sample is a small piece of animal, sometimes a digit, sometimes a piece of organ or flesh, quite unidentifiable to the untrained eye. these are called gross sample because everything in the lab is on such a miniscule scale that these samples are huge in comparison. Vivian takes the gross samples and slices a few sections from it and inserts each section into a plastic cassette about 2cm squared and 3mm deep. the cassette has fairly big holes in it like a plastic colander. once prepared the cassettes are placed in a large bowl with slots in that resembles a salad spinner. the bowl holds around 60 cassettes and is filled with more preserving fluid. there is a strong smell in the lab.
processor: when all the samples have been sliced, the bowls are put in the processor overnight. the processor consists of chamber which spins i think, and is linked to a monitor showing temperatures and times. wax is involved in this process but i can’t remember why.
section cutter: this machine made by Leica is called a microtome which means very small slice. after the samples come out of the processor, more wax is added to help with the slicing. the slice has to be incredibly thin, not more than two cells deep which is far thinner than a hair, otherwise the analysts wont be able to identify anything.
pipette: once the very thin slice is made it is placed on a slide and antibodies are added using a pipette. the antibody is a protein which matches exactly to the cells in the tissue sample and sits on top of the matching cells. this is known as immunohistochemistry.
staining sink: the remaining wax is dissolved and a stain is added in a machine that is long and thin and has various colour stains attached to a bicycle chain. without a stain nothing will be visible under the microscope. the stain is chosen to correspond with the relevant antibody and highlights the relevant cells.
cover slips: Martha places cover slips to finish the slide prepation. the slip protects the sample and is essential for viewing transparency.
extra testing: Caroline uses the microscope to help prepare a sample for further testing. this is outside of the normal process.
slides: each number refers to one animal, the size of the samples vary depending on which part of the animal they are.
looking through microscope: the microscope is extremely bright. i had intended to draw some of the cell patterns but my eyes were unaccustomed to the light and began to hurt after a few minutes. Alex dictates his findings into a head microphone which will later be written up by Ruth in admin.
i had planned to do some drawings through the microscope but the light was far to bright for my eyes which are more used to dark gig venues, so i asked tim to send me some photos of the slides instead. the first two are from a tumour from the leg of a cat – a high grade soft tissue sarcoma. The other one is from a skin melanoma from the leg of a dog.