Karyotype Analysis

A CIBT Lab Exercise in Molecular Biology



In this laboratory exercise, students stain a fixed preparation of human cancer cells that were cultured in the laboratory. The stained cells are observed microscopically; students will observe cells containing the classical "X" shaped chromatids at metaphase. Students gain microscope practice and collect interesting data about chromosome number and chromosome type. A karyotype of several well spread cells is prepared and compared to a karyotype of normal human cells. This activity can serve as a springboard to class discussions about genetic defects that can be diagnosed by the use of karyotyping.


Appropriate Levels

Regents Biology, and AP Biology or equivalent.


Time Required

One class period each of two days: Day one - stain the cells and prepare a permanent slide. Day two - observe the karyotypes and sketch the results.


Materials (per team of students):

  • Pasteur pipette and bulb or a disposable pipette
  • tape or marker to label slides
  • microscope or the whole class
  • cold methanol
  • several chilled microscope slides, #1 glass coverslips, xylene to clean up excess Permount
  • The karyotyping kit can be ordered from CellServ. The kit (CSK4) contains tubes of cells ready to stain, containers of Stain #1, Stain #2, and Permount. Be sure to order the kit several months ahead of time. The kits are prepared just before you need them and must be used within a week or two. When they arrive, the cells must be stored in the refrigerator. CellServ can be contacted through their web site at: www.cellserv.org.
Copyright for this material is held by Cornell University, the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers (CIBT), the Center for Nanoscale Systems Institute for Physics Teachers (CIPT), and or West Hill Biological Resources, Inc., 2014. This work may be copied by the original recipient from this web site to provide copies for users working under the direct supervision of the original recipient. All other redistribution of this content without the express written permission of the copyright holder(s) is prohibited.

Price: No Charge


Rita Calvo, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Mary Colvard, Cobleskill High School. Cobleskill, NY 

Glenn Simpson, Victor High School, Victor, NY