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May the cellular force be with you

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-09-2013

Like tiny construction workers, cells sculpt embryonic tissues and organs in 3D space. This task is complicated and requires constant communication between cells to coordinate their actions and generate the forces that will shape their environment into complex tissue morphologies.

Biologists have long studied the communication between cells and their behavior while building these structures, but until now, it had not been possible to see the forces cells generate to shape them. A new method to quantify the mechanical forces that cells exert while building tissues and organs can help answer long unresolved questions in biology and provide new diagnostic tools for medicine.

Developed initially in the Wyss Institute at Harvard University by Otger Campàs and Donald Ingber, this technique is the first of its kind to measure the mechanical forces that cells generate in living embryos. Now an assistant professor who holds the Mellichamp Chair in Systems Biology at UC Santa Barbara, Campàs leads a lab that is developing this droplet technique in several new directions, and applying it to discover the patterns of cellular forces that shape embryonic structures in fish and chicken.

“There is a lot of interest in understanding how genetics and mechanics interplay to shape embryonic tissues,” said Campàs. “I believe this technique will help many scientists explore the role that mechanical forces play in morphogenesis and, more generally, in biology.”

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What Jon Stewart Thinks of Science

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-04-2013

Very funny piece from a very funny man. Listener’s discretion is advised.

What is the Nagoya Protocol

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-05-2013

The following videos help explain:
1. What is the Nogoya Protocol

2. Why is the Nogoya Protocol necessary?

Bio-Rad Launches New TGX™ FastCast™ and TGX Stain-Free™ FastCast™ Acrylamide Kits for Gel Electrophoresis

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 10-29-2013

Bio-Rad Laboratories announced the launch of its TGX FastCast acrylamide and TGX Stain-Free FastCast acrylamide kits, which provide handcast gel users access to Bio-Rad’s TGX gel chemistry, previously available only in precast gels. The TGX FastCast kits allow users to hand cast polyacrylamide gels with fast run times, efficient protein transfers, and consistent, reproducible results. Researchers can also take advantage of the TGX Stain-Free version, which allows users to monitor the success of each step in their protein electrophoresis and western blotting workflows.

Fast Casting, Running, and Transfer Times, Long Shelf Life
Unlike traditional handcast gels, which require 60 minutes to polymerize before running, FastCast gels can be used only 30 minutes after casting, saving valuable preparation time. Protein electrophoresis can then be run on these gels in as little as 20 minutes, three times faster than conventional Tris-HCl handcast gels.

As with Bio-Rad’s TGX precast gels, proteins can be transferred from FastCast gels in as little as 3 minutes when used with Bio-Rad’s Trans-Blot® Turbo™ transfer system. In addition to these performance advantages, FastCast gels can conveniently be stored for up to 4 weeks after casting, allowing researchers to cast multiple gels at once and use as needed.

“Having a 4-week shelf life is extremely useful, as the handcast gels I previously worked with only lasted two to three days, forcing me to plan my experiments around this limited shelf life,” said Aaron Ramsey, a graduate student in the biochemistry department at Virginia Tech. “Now I can cast several gels at once that I know will last for several weeks.”

Benefits of Going Stain-Free
The TGX Stain-Free FastCast acrylamide kits allow protein detection in gels or on membranes in 3–5 minutes using Bio-Rad’s stain-free imaging systems. This makes it possible for researchers to cast their gels and achieve complete protein separation, gel imaging, and data analysis in less than an hour.

The importance of stain-free technology is readily apparent in western blotting experiments, where it provides confidence at each step of the workflow through visual checks. Stain-free visualization also enables total protein normalization, a more accurate method than using housekeeping proteins for correcting loading errors.

“The TGX Stain-Free FastCast acrylamide kits allow me to skip using extra antibodies for detecting loading controls because I can use a stain-free gel image for normalization to multiple proteins in the sample,” said Alan Cochrane, PhD, a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Cochrane also says that stain-free gels give him better sensitivity than Coomassie staining.

To learn more about the TGX FastCast and TGX Stain-Free FastCast acrylamide kits, visit www.bio-rad.com/FastCast-acrylamide.

Poor Morale Continues Among Scientists Despite End to Government Shutdown

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 10-21-2013

After failing to enact legislation on the 2014 fiscal budget, the US government shutdown and furloughed approximately 800,000 federal workers. For seventeen nerve-racking days in October, (October 1-17), many routine government services were closed, costing the economy a whopping $24 Billion dollars. While the shutdown affected many public services and universities, it had a particularly crippling effect on one of America’s largest research institutes, the National Institute of Health. Despite the fact that the shutdown ended several days ago, many scientists continue to wonder what long-term impact the fiasco will have on their funding. Considering that the NIH supports more than 50% of American research projects, this question is completely justified.

In an article posted to the NIH website on October 17th, Sally Rockey, the NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, inforomed scientists that October grant submission deadlines will be rescheduled to November and missed reviews may or may not be rescheduled depending on the particular reviewer’s personal situation.

How do scientists feel about this setback? From the comments posted to the NIH blog, not very happy.

One PI wonders if it is even worth applying for NIH funding for the coming year. He correctly states that although the shutdown has ended, the sequester continues to loom large and hasn’t left much hope for scientists looking for grants in 2014. Even more worryingly, the commenter tells us of the impact that the shutdown/sequester has had on the next generation of American scientists which his best junior scientist moving to Malta where she has been promised more lucrative scientific funding.

Another scientists worries that:

five month delay in grant reviews may be career-ending for many scientists

Or as another scientist wrote:

Years of preparations by researchers who’s careers are dependent on these reviews will be put in peril because the agency closed for a couple of weeks

Will American science ever recover from these setbacks? How long can we sustain our position as a world leader in scientific discovery? If the responses from NIH scientists are any indication, we are entering a deep dark tunnel and it may take us years to dig out.