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7 Biochemistry Lab Experiments that are Easier to Teach with Labster

Ginelle Testa
Biochemistry
Teaching with Labster

7 Biochemistry Lab Experiments that are Easier to Teach with Labster

You want the best biochemistry labs for your students. Maybe lesson planning is taking up too much time, you’re recycling the same labs over and over, or you’re a new teacher. Whatever the case, we’ve gathered 7 biochemistry lab experiments that you can teach your students. We’ve also matched accompanying virtual labs that can help teach some of the experiments.

1.) ELISA

ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. basic assay technique. Trying to capture a specific protein amongst thousands of types of proteins is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but it’s easier with this basic assay technique. Instructors can provide ELISA kits if budgets allow.

There are incubation times necessary with this method, so the collapsed time aspect of using a virtual lab is useful! Labster has an ELISA Virtual Lab where students can help a doctor quantify Factor IX protein, which is used for hemophilia drugs.

ELISA 3

Figure alt text: Sealing an ELISA plate using a microplate seal in a virtual lab.

2.) DNA/RNA Sequencing

With the right equipment, DNA & RNA sequencing can be straightforward and easy. Fast and affordable sequencing matters, as it opens up a whole new world for biology/biochemistry research. There are a variety of ways to do sequencing, but they can be expensive - especially for a lab class. 

Labster has a few sequencing labs, one being RNA Extraction: Sample and purify mRNA from pigs where students can learn how to extract RNA from pig fat tissue samples and how to purify messenger RNA using magnetic beads.

3.) Nutrition

There’s a great deal of biochemistry research done in the field of nutrition such as understanding how food relates to cancer and how food can promote health. A CUNY lab exercise guide outlines some different hands-on labs instructors can do such as “The Microbiology of Milk and Food.”

Some concepts can be difficult to get across to students in a regular lab or through lecturing. That’s where our 3D animations and interactivity are most impactful. Labster has a Carbohydrates virtual lab where students can visualize and explore how carbohydrates are broken down by the digestive system and taken up into the bloodstream.

Carbohydrates

Figure alt text: Reviewing various carbohydrates in a virtual lab.

4.) Gel Electrophoresis

This technique is used to separate components of a mixture, often DNA, RNA, or proteins. Kits are available to do this experiment in the classroom if the budget allows for it. Virtual lab simulations are a cost-effective alternative Not only are they helpful for learning the technique itself, but also to visualize the components. 

In Labster’s Gel Electrophoresis virtual lab, students will solve a crime by using DNA fingerprinting to identify a thief. Students will use nucleic acid gel electrophoresis to separate and visualize DNA molecules and watch an animation to understand what happens inside the gel tank.

 5.) Antibodies & Antigens

Antibodies and Antigens can be difficult to teach but Labster has a free 3D animation video on “Antigen-Antibody Binding - Why are some blood types incompatible?” Utilizing videos, interactive simulations, lectures, and images help to differentiate teaching approaches and support students in learning these concepts. 

In Labster’s Antibodies virtual lab, learn about the concepts of antibodies and antigens, as well as the ABO and Rhesus blood grouping systems and their importance in blood transfusions. Then, they will help a young couple determine the potential risk for Rhesus disease in their unborn child.

Antibodies 3

Figure alt text: Tight antibody-antigen complex.

6.) Blotting Methods

Students need to use blotting methods to identify DNA, RNA, and other proteins. There are a variety of blots: Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western (1). This technique can be done in the lab - but it is notoriously difficult at first. Practicing in a virtual lab helps students grasp the methods and understand how to analyze their results.

In our Western Blot virtual lab, students perform a western blot experiment to ultimately provide data and knowledge to identify a promising treatment for breast cancer.

7.) Polymerase Chain Reaction

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is used to amplify or make multiple copies of DNA (1). It can be expensive to run these labs as PCR labs are expensive and time-consuming. This is where virtual labs can help!

In the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) simulation, students will be thrown right into a crime scene where a murder has taken place. After investigating the crime scene, their first task is to collect blood samples in the hope that the murderer has left traces of their DNA. A 3D animation will show the PCR experiment at the molecular level, illustrating the structure of DNA and its replication.

PCR 3

If you’re interested in teaching PCR in an approachable way, check out our PCR blog post

Questions for consideration?

  • How could you incorporate these virtual labs into your teaching plans?

  • Are these labs better as self-paced homework assignments or small-group collaboration in class?

Sources

(1) Shaw, Vikram. (n.d.), Biochemistry Lab Techniques for the MCAT: Everything You Need to Know. Shemassian Academic Consulting. Retrieved from: https://www.shemmassianconsulting.com/blog/biochemistry-techniques-mcat#part-7-centrifugation-and-chromatography