BRRAT Scientists Have Done It Again

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-17-2014

So the BRRAT (Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Technology laboratory) scientists are at it again. They just cannot keep themselves out of trouble. I am at a loss for words. There really is nothing left to say. You can’t make this stuff up folks. Three breaches of CDC (Center for Disease Control) policy regarding the safe handling of extremely dangerous bio-hazardous materials all within weeks of each other.

For the benefit of those that have not read the stories that we’ve posted previously, here is a brief recap. In June, approximately 75 scientists were exposed to the deadly Anthrax virus when it was accidentally transferred from a high-level biosafety lab to one with a lower clearance level. Then in early July, an FDA scientist found 6 vials of smallpox somewhere in the back of his freezer. Apparently it had been sitting there for decades, (sounds like a very good freezer-they certainly don’t make them to last like that anymore), waiting for some poor, unsuspecting researcher to find it and bring it back to life.

So what’s next you ask? What’s the third breach? Are you sitting down?

The CDC is reporting that the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu virus was mistakenly shipped from a high level biosafety lab to a low level Department of Agriculture Facility. That’s right. The deadly virus was mistakenly shipped to the wrong place. But wait…there’s more. According to CDC Director Thomas Frieden, more than six weeks passed between the time that the virus was sent to the Department of Agriculture until it was officially reported to the CDC.

I give up. My confidence in the system is officially shot.

So how did the CDC respond to these violations? Their official response can be seen in this press release. Here is a synopsis for those who don’t have the patients to comb through another CDC report. Keep in mind that this is my take on the response and not the official position of the CDC:

  • immediate cessation on the transfer of highly dangerous biological materials (now that makes sense)
  • establishment of a working group to hold scientists accountable for common sense
  • establishment of a review group (do you see a pattern here?) to figure out how to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future
  • BRRAT scientists can no longer work with hazardous material until it has been shown that they can act responsibly with materials that can be used to create biological weapons
  • somebody might lose his/her job

So what do yo think? Are these measures strong enough? Do they reinstall your confidence in the ability of America’s top Scientists to protect the rest of us low level lab techs from contracting a deadly disease or potentially spreading it to your friends and family.

I’m not sure that I am feeling any better. Are you?

I LOVE Science!

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-16-2014

Overcoming PCR Inhibitors

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-15-2014

Sso advanced universal inhibitorBio-Rad Laboratories announced the launch of the SsoAdvanced™ Universal Inhibitor-Tolerant SYBR® Green Supermix, a proven solution for obtaining reproducible, optimal-quality qPCR data from the most challenging samples.

Generating quality qPCR data from difficult-to-amplify samples such as crude lysates from plants, tissues, formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples, and other less-than-ideal sources that contain PCR inhibitors can be challenging and frustrating. In these situations, PCR may be greatly inhibited, making it nearly impossible for researchers to obtain reliable data, wasting time and money.

The formulation of the SsoAdvanced™ Universal Inhibitor-Tolerant SYBR® Green Supermix has been optimized and validated to tolerate a wider spectrum of PCR inhibitors than competing SYBR® Green reagents. These inhibitors include those found in crude lysates, polysaccharides and polyphenols, and various reagents left over from sample prep such as ethanol, isopropanol, EDTA, and sodium chloride see performance data for all inhibitors.

As with all SsoAdvanced Supermixes, the inhibitor-tolerant version includes Bio-Rad’s Sso7d-fusion polymerase, which is engineered for enhanced qPCR performance. The supermix is compatible with all real-time PCR instruments and functions under any reaction condition.

Visit to learn more about SsoAdvanced™ Universal Inhibitor-Tolerant SYBR® Green Supermix.

Turning Stem Cells into Blood

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-14-2014

The ability to reliably and safely make in the laboratory all of the different types of cells in human blood is one key step closer to reality.

Writing today in the journal Nature Communications, a group led by University of Wisconsin-Madison stem cell researcher Igor Slukvin reports the discovery of two genetic programs responsible for taking blank-slate stem cells and turning them into both red and the array of white cells that make up human blood.

The research is important because it identifies how nature itself makes blood products at the earliest stages of development. The discovery gives scientists the tools to make the cells themselves, investigate how blood cells develop and produce clinically relevant blood products.

“This is the first demonstration of the production of different kinds of cells from human pluripotent stem cells using transcription factors,” explains Slukvin, referencing the proteins that bind to DNA and control the flow of genetic information, which ultimately determines the developmental fate of undifferentiated stem cells.

During development, blood cells emerge in the aorta, a major blood vessel in the embryo. There, blood cells, including hematopoietic stem cells, are generated by budding from a unique population of what scientists call hemogenic endothelial cells. The new report identifies two distinct groups of transcription factors that can directly convert human stem cells into the hemogenic endothelial cells, which subsequently develop into various types of blood cells.

The factors identified by Slukvin’s group were capable of making the range of human blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells and megakaryocytes, commonly used blood products.

Read more…

You Can’t Publish THAT!

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-10-2014

This is great but I can’t believe that it actually got published!