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Archive for the ‘cool tools’ Category

Making high-end microscopy affordable for the masses

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-29-2013

Engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have devised a method to convert a relatively inexpensive conventional microscope into a billion-pixel imaging system that significantly outperforms the best available standard microscope. Such a system could greatly improve the efficiency of digital pathology, in which specialists need to review large numbers of tissue samples. By making it possible to produce robust microscopes at low cost, the approach also has the potential to bring high-performance microscopy capabilities to medical clinics in developing countries. – See more at:

The Cell: An Image Library-CCDB Launches a New Tool for Cell Visualization

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 06-13-2013

Guest Post by David Orloff:

The Cell: An Image Library-CCDB launches their new Pivot View tool for a new experience in exploring the images in the Library. The Pivot View, now featured on the home page, allows one to explore the whole library in just moments.

You can view images, by cell type, cell line, organism, image mode, attribution, and media format or any combination of these.

Want to re-use some of the images? Now you can search on the licensing requirements just as easily.

For a really interesting experience select the different criteria you are interested in and then be sure to hit the graph view button (circled in red here).

click to view image in new window

This is currently a beta release please, if you encounter any problems email

We welcome all feedback.

Fast new, 1-step genetic engineering technology

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-22-2013

A new, streamlined approach to genetic engineering drastically reduces the time and effort needed to insert new genes into bacteria, the workhorses of biotechnology, scientists are reporting. Published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, the method paves the way for more rapid development of designer microbes for drug development, environmental cleanup and other activities.

Keith Shearwin and colleagues explain that placing, or integrating, a piece of the genetic material DNA into a bacterium’s genome is critical for making designer bacteria. That DNA can give microbes the ability to churn out ingredients for medication, for instance, or substances that break down oil after a big spill. But current genetic engineering methods are time-consuming and involve many steps. The approaches have other limitations as well. To address those drawbacks, the researchers sought to develop a new, one-step genetic engineering technology, which they named “clonetegration,” a reference to clones or copies of genes or DNA fragments.

They describe development and successful laboratory tests of clonetegration in E. coli and Salmonella typhimurium bacteria, which are used in biotechnology. The method is quick, efficient and easy to do and can integrate multiple genes at the same time. They predict that clonetegration “will become a valuable technique facilitating genetic engineering with difficult-to-clone sequences and rapid construction of synthetic biological systems.”

Thanks to the American Chemical Society for contributing this story.

Extracting and Purifying Human DNA in Under Three Minutes

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-07-2013

University of Washington engineers and NanoFacture, a Bellevue, Wash., company, have created a device that can extract human DNA from fluid samples in a simpler, more efficient and environmentally friendly way than conventional methods.

Conventional methods use a centrifuge to spin and separate DNA molecules or strain them from a fluid sample with a micro-filter, but these processes take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and can require excessive toxic chemicals.

UW engineers designed microscopic probes that dip into a fluid sample – saliva, sputum or blood – and apply an electric field within the liquid. That draws particles to concentrate around the surface of the tiny probe. Larger particles hit the tip and swerve away, but DNA-sized molecules stick to the probe and are trapped on the surface. It takes two or three minutes to separate and purify DNA using this technology.

Read the full story on the UW website.

Accelerating the discovery of the hammers and tongs of life

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-25-2013

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a way to significanlty increase the processing speed at which mass spectrometers identify proteins. Professor Joshua Coon and colleagues from the department of chemistry and biomolecular chemistry, used isotope tags to enable the mass spec to differentiate between as many as 20 different samples at once. The new technology is expected to make mass spec cheaper, faster and more accessible to the scientific masses clamoring to be part of a technique that is on the forefront of biology.

As one astute observer put it:

Proteins are essential building blocks of biology, used in muscle, brain, blood and hormones. If the genes are the blueprints, the proteins patterned on them are the hammers and tongs of life.

With Coon’s new technology, the discovery of the hammers and tongs have life has just been kicked up a notch.

For more information, read Analytical trick may accelerate cancer diagnosis.