A Big Week

It started Monday 13 September with international despatch from Wisconsin USA of 8 vials of human heart cells – 40 million cells in all. By Wednesday they’d reached the FedEx depot at Matraville in Sydney’s south east. But they were stuck in Customs. On Friday nothing had changed – except most likely the dry ice and liquid nitrogen controlling temperature inside the parcels would be degraded, and the cells can’t survive if they overheat.

Across that week, we also had key discussions with collaborating paper artist Horst Kiechle, and with PhD student Niina Mathews – continuing our development of ideas about the flexibility, the dimensions, the shapes, of heart patches. Importantly, we progressed our thinking about how to present creative works, and had very helpful discussion with the UTS Gallery.

By the following Monday afternoon, this week, the cells – which we intend to include as the living element in mini bio-printed sculptures – were still stuck at the depot, though cleared by Customs. What next? We got news that our two packages had been separated, that one was on its way to another depot in a semi trailer.

Tuesday morning, masked, double-vaccinated, and ‘travelling for work’, Carmine and Paul hit the road to liberate the cells from the depot – well it seemed that dramatic to us. We stood our ground outside the FedEx depot.

By a miracle, a very helpful FedEx worker had rescued the package from the semi-trailer, and the whole consignment was ready for collection. Carmine rattled the boxes – not much hint that the dry ice was still viable inside.

We drove back to UTS. Anxious moment as Carmine inspected the packages and the cells and the bottles of medium. The coolant around the medium was all gone, but the bottles were still icy. Another day and it would have been too late.

As for the cells – protected by liquid nitrogen, they’d survived. All now stored at the lab sub zero.

Box containing cells

Please open immediately: shipped at minus 180 degrees

Cell media

Bottles of media – just in time

vials of cells in cannister

Cell vials in protective canister [photos: Carmine Gentile]

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