Carl Zimmer in Wired:
At five a.m. one day last fall, in San Francisco’s South of Market district, Vishwanath Lingappa was making rabies soup. At his lab station, he injected a syringe full of rabies virus proteins into a warm flask loaded with other proteins, lipids, building blocks of DNA, and various other molecules from ground-up cells. It cooked for hours on Lingappa’s bench, and occasionally he withdrew a few drops to analyze its chemistry. By spinning the fluid in a centrifuge, he could isolate small clumps of proteins that flew toward the edge as the bigger ones stayed close to the center.
To his mix, Lingappa had added a particular protein he wanted to study. He suspected that the rabies virus used this protein in the infected cell to assemble the capsid, or external shell, of replicated viruses. He had tagged the target protein with radioactive atoms, allowing him to follow it as it interacted with other elements in the soup.
At around 10 in the morning, Lingappa took pictures of the mixture. By lunchtime, seven hours into his workday, the images were developed and ready to show off to his staff. In the conference room, a table was strewn with take-out sandwiches, and an abandoned bowl of oatmeal sat on a credenza. As Lingappa held up the films to the light, his colleagues crowded behind him to make out black streaks across the images. Read full article here