The 2014 Ig Nobels Have Arrived!

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-25-2014

Life Through an MRI Machine

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-24-2014

Now trending #1 on Google. Very cool.

Better Than Film

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-23-2014

Bio-Rad Laboratories announced the launch of its ChemiDoc Touch Imaging System. This system is a significant advance in chemiluminescent western blot detection, surpassing the performance of film and the convenience of other digital imaging systems.

Until now, digital imaging systems failed to deliver the sensitivity and resolution of film. The new ChemiDoc Touch System, however, allows detection of faint bands missed by film and produces publication-quality images.

The ChemiDoc Touch Imaging System is better able than film to detect faint bands.

The ChemiDoc Touch Imaging System is better able than film to detect faint bands.

The ChemiDoc Touch System outperforms film in other ways as well. When using film to image abundant proteins, strong bands quickly saturate and become unquantifiable. Saturated bands can also obscure the signal from adjacent faint bands, making western blotting with film challenging. The ChemiDoc Touch System addresses these issues through its wide dynamic range, which permits easy and reliable quantitation even of highly abundant proteins, and through its ability to optimize exposure for each protein of interest.

Dr. Ernesto Diaz-Flores, PhD, an assistant adjunct professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), conducted early tests on the Bio-Rad product. Dr. Diaz-Flores used the imager to simultaneously measure protein expression level changes of up to 30 different proteins in samples from leukemia patients to understand how gene mutations alter protein pathways that might represent novel therapeutic targets.

“My goal in collaborating on this project with Bio-Rad was to help develop the next generation technology required to advance protein quantification analysis and its impact in research,” said Dr. Diaz-Flores. “We found that the technology outperformed film and other imaging technologies, as it allows us to simultaneously visualize and quantitate both high and low expression proteins in a matter of seconds. It also allowed us to determine fold induction or protein reduction in high resolution and correlate these levels to drug response in multiple protein assays in a time-efficient manner.”

Capturing images with the ChemiDoc Touch System is easy. Unlike the often sluggish response of other imagers, the ChemiDoc Touch System offers a smooth, intuitive user experience that makes capturing, reviewing, selecting, and exporting images efficient and straightforward.

The imager also allows stain-free imaging, a technology exclusive to Bio-Rad. Using the stain-free enabled V3 Western Workflow™, researchers can quickly determine whether their western blot is proceeding as planned using the imager at multiple built-in checkpoints. Researchers can also use stain-free technology to perform total protein normalization for easier and more reliable protein quantitation.

To learn more about the ChemiDoc Touch System and how it provides a better user experience than film, visit

Changing the Way We Do Science

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-22-2014

A Revolution in Mapping Complex Genetic Traits

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-18-2014

Life is rarely simple. From crop yields to disease risks, the biological characteristics people care most about are usually those considered “complex traits.” Just as for height—the textbook example of a complex trait—attributes like risk for a particular human disease are shaped by multiple genetic and environmental influences, making it challenging to find the genes involved. To track down such genes, geneticists typically mate two individuals that differ in key ways—for example, a large mouse and a small mouse—and then study their descendents, looking for genes that tend to be inherited with the trait value of interest. But this method only implicates a broad genomic region, and the identities of the crucial gene/s often remain a mystery.

Now, geneticists are embracing a powerful approach that pinpoints more precise areas of the genome by founding the breeding population with multiple, genetically diverse parents. To encourage innovations in this rapidly developing field, the Genetics Society of America journals GENETICS and G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics today published the first articles in an ongoing special collection on mapping complex trait genes in multiparental populations.

The 18 articles describe methods and applications in a wide range of organisms, including mice, fruit flies, and maize. Among the advances reported are the creation of a multiparental population of wheat, methods for use with the Diversity Outbred and Collaborative Cross mouse populations, and the identification of nicotine resistance genes in fruit flies. The power of the approach for disease genetics is highlighted in an article describing how a multiparental rat population was used to find a human gene variant that affects insulin levels.

“These collections of multiparental strains are extremely powerful and greatly accelerate discovery. For example, in one of the articles, researchers report using a multiparental population to rapidly identify fruit fly genome regions associated with the toxicity of chemotherapy drugs. The authors could then examine these regions to find several candidate causative genes,” said Dirk-Jan de Koning, Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Complex Traits, at G3, and an editor of the new collection. “Using standard two-parent crosses, they would have been stuck with unmanageably large regions each containing hundreds or even thousands of candidate genes.”

Because the field is so new, geneticists are still developing the best methods for creating and analyzing multiparental populations. “This collection will move the field forward by stimulating discussion between different disciplines and research communities,” said Lauren McIntyre, Professor at the University of Florida, and an editor of the collection. “To help foster this ongoing exchange, the collection will continue to publish new articles, and all associated data will be freely available.”

In an editorial, McIntyre and de Koning describe how the idea for the multiparental populations collection was born and how scientific society journals like GENETICS and G3 can advance new research fields.

Thanks to Genetics Society of America for contributing this story.