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June 2013 Archive

Posted by unknown on June 6th, 2013  ⟩  0 comments

It's time to make your lab more social media friendly and get on twitter. If you're trying to figure out how to set up a twitter account for your laboratory, then this is the guide for you! 

It's not breaking news that social media keeps taking a larger role in our daily lives. On almost every television show you watch, when something big (or even mundane) happens you see that little hashtag in the corner of the screen followed by a word or phrase. (For those of you not yet in the know, a hashtag is #.) Whether it’s the show's name, a place, or a phrase that follows it, it is directly related to the show, and if you tweet (post on twitter) with this hashtagged word or phrase, everyone who follows the show will immediately understand the information. For those that don’t, it creates curiosity. The curiosity starts reeling and may then lead them to watch the television show, or at least, look into it. So now, the television company has sparked a bit of new interest in the show by simply posting a small hashtag during it, and Twitter did the rest. Because of this phenomenon, it’s not surprising that many companies, non-profits, and organizations have jumped at the chance to plug themselves into this ever-growing network, and the lab that I worked for last year was no exception. 

When I first started working in my lab, the lab manager was very quick to tell me their plans about a Facebook and Twitter page. At first I just kind of laughed at the thought of a whole bunch of scientists crowded around a computer typing out pathways 140 characters at a time and posting this to generate interest in their work. However, after we got the account up and running, I realized that there are many different reasons in which labs can benefit from Twitter and other social media channels. 

After I set up the account, I told all of my friends to follow our lab's account. While this may seem mundane to include, it's important to get the account followed because without followers then the account is basically useless. Furthermore, to get more followers, promise a “follow back” (this means that if you follow me, I will follow you in return). This works because everyone wants to have a lot of followers, because this means that you are important and people enjoy reading what you have to say. However, after you get your followers you don't want to fill their feed with useless business promotions or boring, impersonal tweets. Twitter is like a mini community, and nobody wants to have a random stuff polluting their feed. So to avoid this and keep your followers, you must have a wide array of fun information, maybe a few deals on products you find, and mix in a few polls or questions.

The information part can be tricky sometimes, especially for labs, as the work we were doing could be difficult to understand if you weren't there doing it on a daily basis. So to kind of bypass this roadblock we would include recent articles from Nature, Science or any other cool information we could find. All of the information didn't even have to be strictly about lab work, but rather science in general. Any kind of information that has the potential to generate a conversation is good, especially if it is recent. People like to be in the know, and giving them easy to understand science is a great ego boost to some people as they feel smart and will be more likely to share it. Now people that we have never met, and probably will not ever meet, are talking about our lab and getting our name out there. Deals are also good because any time people can get something free; they are usually all over it. Finally, the last type of post, polls or questions, are a great to generate traffic, because people like to give their opinion. If I respond to a tweet from Starbucks, then all my friends can now see that I follow Starbucks, and might follow them as well. The same thing works for a lab.

Another thing to take into consideration is that all kinds of people are on Twitter. It is no longer confined to teenagers posting their duck faces in MySpace-like mirror pics, but rather it now includes a whole realm of professional and well-known but individuals without the stuffy environment that usually surrounds these people. This is a huge advantage because we can use our abbreviated words or acronyms while talking to a professional, and we seemingly have the upper hand because this is where we feel most comfortable. When I see e-mails from a company the first thing I do is promptly move them into the spam or trash folder because I’m too busy to deal with all that. But with Twitter, people are trying to waste time and are more willing to read 140 characters worth of your thoughts, and if the information or question is interesting enough they will even respond. At least for me, I like to hop on Twitter when I'm bored, procrastinating, or in an awkward situation and need to look busy. I’ll sit there and read other people's thoughts, whether they are interesting or not, to simply pass the time and it's just so easy to respond to a tweet, or retweet something, because it's not as formal as an e-mail. 

The idea of using Twitter in a lab setting may seem a little silly at first, but the information is getting out there and conversations are being started that under previous circumstances would never have occurred. After seeing some of the benefits it should be a no brainer to link-in and take advantage of this new outlet. Twitter is a free way to network with other labs, researchers, potential colleagues, or future employees and get your name out there. It’s a grass-roots campaign that starts with random, common people that form a network. The people work together to get information passed along, tracking the progress of the thoughts and what people are saying about it. You could start a hashtag and then search it to see what people have to say about your lab. If the tweets are good, go ahead and save a few to post on your website or Facebook. Everybody likes to see comments from real people. It's obvious that you and your lab mates think you are the bee’s knees, but hearing that other people agree is nice and can only help boost the image of the lab. Now for the obvious shameless plug, you should go follow @Goldbio and we’ll tweet with you soon.

Deanna Tiek
Vanderbilt Class of 2014
Deanna is an intern at Goldbio during the summer of 2013.

Category Code: 79105 88253 79108 79107 79109

Posted by Chris on June 13th, 2013  ⟩  0 comments

Luciferin continues to be one of the most popular items we sell at GoldBio and we’re excited that we can help provide for your research interests. Even more, we love looking through the articles which are being published and seeing first-hand the amazing results that we are helping scientists achieve all around the world. And we are seeing a lot of cancer related research using our luciferin.

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be over 1.6 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in 2013 and nearly 600,000 will die from cancer this year as well. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly ¼ of reported deaths. But the 5 year survival rate has also been increasing steadily over the last 30 years, up to 68% survival, thanks largely to better diagnostics as well as improvements in treatment…all of which would not exist without the awesome medical research being done every day for which we are happy to help provide the reagents to make it possible.
Cancer deaths 1930-2009

For instance, Zhang (Yin) et al. is using luciferin in breast cancer research in order to identify early tumor metastases for the purpose of developing an image-guided surgery for tumor removal. Similarly, Chandrasekaran et al. used luciferin in a study to find a new imaging system for Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). GBM is an aggressive type of brain cancer which cannot easily be seen in traditional PET scans utilizing F-Fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) PET due to the high rate of glucose uptake in the brain which can obscure the tumor image. By comparing a new biomarker F-Fluorothymidine (18F-FLT) against the luciferase BLI in mice, they were able to confirm a better alternative PET scan which will hopefully lead to better diagnoses of GBM in the future.

Additionally, Wang et al. used luciferin and BLI as a confirmation of several putative anticancer compounds from the North American Oplopanax horridus plant, including falcarindiol and oplopantriol A, which showed potent antiproliferative effects in vitro and in vivo on the HTC-116 tumor strain. Likewise, Zhang (Zhiyu) et al. used BLI to help demonstrate that Compound K (from the ginseng plant) inhibits the transcriptional activation of some tumor-promoting pathways of colorectal cancer (CRC).

For these and the many other cancer research groups that are diligently searching for answers to one of our species most prolific nightmares, you have our thanks and gratitude. We hope that we can continue to help you help the world through your never-ending search for the cure.
 
 

Zhang, Yin, et al. "Imaging tumor angiogenesis in breast cancer experimental lung metastasis with positron emission tomography, near-infrared fluorescence, and bioluminescence." Angiogenesis (2013): 1-12.

Chandrasekaran, S, et al. "18 F-Fluorothymidine-Pet Imaging of Glioblastoma Multiforme: Effects of Radiation Therapy on Radiotracer Uptake and Molecular Biomarker Patterns." The Scientific World Journal 2013 (2013).

Wang, Chong-Zhi, et al. "Identification of potential anticancer compounds from Oplopanax horridus." Phytomedicine (2013).

Zhang, Zhiyu, et al. "Compound K, a Ginsenoside Metabolite, Inhibits Colon Cancer Growth via Multiple Pathways Including p53-p21 Interactions." International Journal of Molecular Sciences 14.2 (2013): 2980-2995.

Category Code: 88241

Posted by Chris on June 20th, 2013  ⟩  0 comments

If you’re anything like me (geek that I am), every new technological device tends to get your blood pumping and invokes an involuntary reflex to reach for your wallet. That’s even truer for the ever-popular “i”-products which tend to grab our collective-geek attention even faster with every new device. Now there are some clever scientists from the University of Bonn in Germany who have developed a new reporter system utilizing Gaussia luciferase, the “iGLuc”!

While researching the inflammasome process, and specifically IL-1β, a primary target of caspase-1, Bartok et al. hit a frustrating road block. Inflammasomes are large, multiprotein oligomers that are intregal parts of the immune response system. They are a platform which supports an inflammatory cascade after sensing damage-associated molecular patterns. Caspase-1 is an enzyme that’s utilized by the inflammasome cascade in order to proteolytically cleave specific proteins (such as IL-1β precursor) into active, mature peptides. Once cleaved, IL-1β can finally bind to its receptor in order to induce a variety of cellular responses, such as pyroptosis; a form of programmed cell death that is in response to inflammation.

Bartok was looking for a better way to analyze IL-1β. ELISA techniques were not sensitive enough to distinguish between the IL-1β precursors and mature IL-1β, and Western blotting was too time consuming and useless for high throughput analysis. So, instead they devised a fusion protein of pro-IL-1β and GLuc (Gaussia Luciferase) and called it iGLuc! Unexpectedly, they first saw virtually no luciferase signal from the fusion, even though they were seeing high expression levels of luciferase in the system. But they discovered that pro-IL-1β tends to form a protein aggregate which acts to restrict the release of the signaling C-terminal portion of GLuc. But with the simple addition of caspase-1, pro-IL-1β was cleaved and a corresponding bioluminescent signal could be measured.

The resulting process seems to make for an excellent reporter assay for inflammasome activity! Bartok tested the system both in vitro and in vivo and the system showed good sensitivity and specificity as well as a great signal to noise ratio. The system also shows a lot of promise that it can be further applied to other proteases as well! So, if you’re in the field of inflammasomes (or if you have to own every new device), be sure to keep an “i” out for the iGLuc system. It may become the next, best geeky thing on the technological front! You can find their complete article here.

iGLuc in vivo images

Category Code: 88221 88241

Posted by unknown on June 25th, 2013  ⟩  0 comments

Earlier this month a very unique and very successful Kickstarter campaign wrapped up. If you haven’t heard of it by now, kickstarter.com is a crowd funding website where people like musicians, artists, or inventors can pitch an idea for say a new album, or an outdoor sculpture, or a new iphone accessory and ask the public for donations to help fund it.  The person requesting money sets a goal of how much they need to get the project off the ground, usually covering the cost of materials or startup costs, and make their pitch as to why you would want to give them your precious funds. Usually people will include a video demonstrating their musical ability, or show the mockups for their new product, anything to get people interested. Many “creators” (as kickstarter calls them) will also use incentives to get people to donate at different levels, say if you give $5 to an artist you may get a personal thank you note, or for $10 you may get a code for an extra bonus track from an artist, or for a physical product your donation will count as a preorder. Using this model so far kickstarter has seen enormous success. According to the kickstarter website, over 43,000 projects have been successfully funded and people (backers in kickstarter lingo) have donated over 670 million dollars to these projects.

So what, you may be asking, does all this have to do with science? Easy, scientists need money too! With NIH funds being cut, and more and more scrutiny on grant applications, crowd funding sites can look pretty attractive to scientists with un-funded research ideas. In fact there are a number of websites that cater specifically to the scientific market, a few of the more popular being www.petridish.org and www.microryza.com.  However the one downside in asking the public to funding scientific research directly (that we as scientists understand) is that good science takes a while, and the final results, while undoubtedly interesting and potentially groundbreaking, aren’t all that applicable to the general public’s day to day lives. Really, there are few incentives that scientists can offer to help make their project more appealing to the public. Some will offer lab visits, or a chance to participate in an experiment, or your name listed somewhere in the paper, but these will only attract a certain percentage of the public who are already interested in science and scientific studies. To attract the general public you need something better, you need an actual product you can give people. This is where we get to the part about glowing plants.

On June 6th 2013, the Glowingplants Kickstarter project wrapped up its fund drive by raising $484,013 from over 8000 backers, far exceeding the projects initial request of only $65,000. The researchers plan is to engineer the Arabidopsis genome to utilize the firefly luminescent system, theoretically giving the plants a light blue-green glow. This is one of the most popular and well-funded scientific kickstarter projects to date, and there are many reasons for this. The first is that the project itself is easy to conceptualize. A plant that glows in the dark is something that people can wrap their heads around easily, even if they don’t understand the exactly how it works. The second is that it was presented very well, with lots of great information, cool video demonstrations, and the creators did a lot to hype up their project. But the third and most crucial (and most controversial) reason this project was so successful, is that if you donated only $40, you would receive your very own glowing plant seeds. This was the way in, and it’s exactly what the founders of the project Antony Evans, Omri Amirav-Drory, and Kyle Taylor wanted to prove, that if the public can get their hands on the results of this type of project, they are more understanding and are more likely to donate. This however, is also what caused many problems for the project.

What the researchers are doing, making plants glow, is not a new or groundbreaking idea. In 1986 a research team from UC San Diago engineered a tobacco plant that expressed firefly luciferase that you could make glow by “watering” them with luciferin, and another team from St. Louis in 2010 engineered a tobacco plant to utilize bacterial luminescent systems. But this is the first time a genetically engineered plant will be distributed to the public without regulation, and many people from both inside and outside science are concerned. Some believe that while glowing plants may seem benign, the main concern is because these seeds aren’t regulated by any one governmental organization, that it could lead the way for the release of other transgenic organisms that have the potential to be harmful for people or the environment.  These groups actively tried to stop the kickstarter project, and remove all funding from this group. Others worry that with as much publicity as it’s receiving, the Glowingplants project could turn out to be a PR disaster for the synthic biology community, and undermine other work in the field in the public mind. If the project is a flop, then it may end up leaving the public with a negative impression of the potentials for synthetic biology. The Glowingplants creators see it another way, that by making the process more open, and getting the public on board, they will be more willing to put money towards other synthetic biology projects in the future, and increase the acceptance of the field by making it more familiar. Only time will tell at this point who (if anyone) is correct, but all sides have a vested interest in either stopping or completing this project.

For now, the Glowingplants team is working hard on making their project a reality. They continually update their blog, facebook page, and twitter feed with new information, to fufill their goal of engaging the public in their project. Depending on the final success of this project, we may soon see a whole new crop of science projects on kickstarter, and who knows; maybe in the future we’ll all have a back yard full of lightly glowing plants.

For more information about the glowinplant project, their website is www.glowingplant.com, or their Facebook or Twitter accounts, or kickstarter.com for more info on the crowd funding site.

D. W. Ow et al. “Transient and Stable Expression of the Firefly Luciferase Gene in Plant Cells and Transgenic Plants” Science 234, 856–859; 1986

Category Code: 79105 79102 79106

Posted by Chris on June 27th, 2013  ⟩  0 comments

“Before, beside us, and above
        The firefly lights his lamp of love.”
                        by Bishop Reginald Heber

Bioluminescence is one of the premier tools that scientists have in research, whether studying in vitro or in vivo. Few devices allow for the range, versatility, and ease of use as our adaption of the firefly’s twinkling star. But the firefly luminescence was only the beginning, and biologists have found many other species (mostly in shallow, coastal waters) which have developed the ability to light their own way and which we can copy for our own use and benefit.

Firefly luciferase, with its substrate luciferin, is still by far the most popular system for use in bioluminescent imaging (BLI), with Gaussia luciferase, and its substrate coelenterazine, a close second. Over the years, these two systems have been combined in various methods or kits in order to provide a more expansive research device. Most often, one or the other is used as a system control while the other pulls the heavy load. And there have been many attempts to expand the system even further, such as altering the luciferase cDNA and changing its emission spectrum in order to add a third BLI wavelength. But most of this work has been done in vitro, where the “trouble” of dealing with more than one substrate in a system can be a burden. But in vivo researchers are less bothered by such minor complications.

In animal studies, there are other things to worry about. For instance, how well does a new system handle the body temperature of the model? Can the substrate get to the test site, how quickly/slowly, and which route of injection works best? Will the substrate be broken down in the system? Can we visualize the BLI through the thousand-fold layers of cells in the animal model? There have also been many combinations of BLI and fluorescence systems in order to expand the in vivo systems as well, but with many models displaying autofluorescence, the advantages of doing so is somewhat muted by comparison. Into that line of discovery, enter Dr. Casey Maguire and his group from Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital.

Maguire et al. wanted to develop a system in which three different luciferase signals could help report cancer cells and their cellular interactions. Firefly and Gaussia luciferases were a given, but they needed another, and decided on Vargula (or Cyprindina) luciferase. This relatively new luciferase was found in Vargula hilgendorfii (previously called Cypridina hilgendorfii), a crustacean sometimes called a sea shrimp or sea-firefly. V-Luc (or sometimes C-Luc) utilizes a substrate called Vargulin to produce a blue colored light around the 450nm wavelength. Using a mouse model, Maguire injected cancer cells intracranially which had been modified with either VLuc, FLuc or GLuc cDNA. Ultimately, they wanted to test their ability to “monitor the effect of an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated soluble tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (sTRAIL) therapy against intracranial glioma tumors.”

The results were outstanding, barring a few caveats which you can read for yourself in the discussion section of their article. There was little to no overlap in the BLI signals between the three substrates and all three were clearly visible, even in deep tissue, like the brain. The use of luciferin, coelenterazine, and now vargulin, as triple BLI reporters makes for the best of a cost-effective, sensitive and easy-to-use reporting system. And at GoldBio, that’s just the way we like it!

Triple Bioluminescence

 
 

Maguire, Casey A., et al. "Triple Bioluminescence Imaging for In Vivo Monitoring of Cellular Processes." Molecular Therapy—Nucleic Acids 2.6 (2013): e99.

Category Code: 88241 88231