GPCR Targets are a Dimer a Dozen

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the most prevalent gene family in the human genome. They are involved with everything from our sense of smell to immune system function to tumor growth. Unsurprisingly, GPCRs have been a hotbed for research and development. Of the 7,038 approved drugs analyzed for this blog post, I found that 29% of them target Class A (Rhodopsin-like) GPCRs, and 35% target any GPCR. In the spirit of Internet pop culture, I made a “quiz” to see if you can guess the top 10 receptors by their ligand’s chemical structure.

GPCR-Top10-graph

Can you guess these GPCR receptors by their ligand chemical structures?

Continue reading

Zika: Another RNA Virus Emerges

no mosquitoZika virus has been in the news recently due to growing concerns about its global spread. If you have never heard of Zika virus before, you are not alone. Although first discovered in the 1940s, Zika has not been the subject of much study as infection is considered rare and the symptoms mild. However, all this has changed in recent months due to the rapid spread of the virus in Latin America, where it has been associated with an increased incidence of microcephaly, a severe birth defect where babies are born with underdeveloped brains. Although the connection of Zika with microcephaly is not yet proven, the circumstantial evidence is strong, leading the World Health Organization to declare the spread of Zika virus an international public health emergency earlier this week. Continue reading

Run Out of Reagent at Midnight? There’s an App for That!

Helix AppYou know the scene: you are working on a key experiment on a weekend or after hours–finishing up before an upcoming meeting or before a grant update or proposal submission. You go to the laboratory freezer for that enzyme or protease, or worse to the shelf for the nucleic acid extraction kit for all those samples you have prepped, and…

suddenly you realize it wasn’t reordered after the last person used it.

You need two more kits, but which Helix® unit will have what you need–the one two flights downstairs or the one in the building across the street?

You pull out your mobile device and access the Helix® by Promega app (Android)  or (iOS).  With this app you can access on-site stocking units at your institution, search available products, view reagent information, and make a purchase. Voila! The reagent you need, when you need it—without the campus tour. The Helix® mobile app  requires  current registration for the Helix® program.

Find out if your institution already has a Helix® unit on site, or if you don’t have access to one, learn more about the Helix® program.

Friday Cartoon Fun: Entertaining Yourself Between Incubations

Occasionally, time in the lab passes slowly. There is a two-hour incubation and nothing can be done until the timer goes off. Our science cartoonist Ed Himelblau has illustrated what some creative lab members may have done to fill this time, but is not advised to do:

Copyright Ed Himelblau

To see additional lab shenanigans, peruse the collection of humorous cartoons in our Cartoon Lab.

Inflammasomes: Peeking Inside the Inflammatory Process

Most of us have experienced an inflammatory response at some point in our lives. Fever, achy joints, swelling around a scrape or cut, all of these are forms of inflammatory response. Inflammation is the body’s response to infection or tissue damage and acts to limit harm to the rest of the body. A key player in the inflammation process is a group of protein complexes call inflammasomes. The term “inflammasome” was first used in 2002 by researchers in Switzerland (1) to refer to a caspase-activating protein complex. We now know that inflammasomes are cytosolic multiprotein platforms that assemble in response to pathogens and other signals. Inflammasome assembly results in the processing of the inactive procaspase-1 into the active cysteine-protease enzyme, caspase-1. Caspase-1, in turn, activates the proinflammatory cytokines Interleukins IL-1β and IL-18. In addition, caspase-1 is also required for pyroptosis, which is an inflammatory form of cell death that combines the characteristics of apoptosis (fragmented DNA) and necrosis (inflammation and cytokine release) and is frequently associated with microbial infections.

Inflammasome complexes are made up of scaffolding sensor proteins (NLR, AIM2, ALR), and an adaptor protein containing a caspase activation and retention domain (CARD) and inactive procaspase-1. Most inflammasomes are formed with one or two NLRs (NOD-like receptors). However, non-NLR proteins such as AIM2 (absent in melanoma 2) and pyrin can also form inflammasomes. The different sensor proteins are activated by different types of outside stimuli, and inflammasomes are loosely sorted into families based on the protein forming these sensors.26061534-Inflamasome-Assay-Blog-figure-WEB Continue reading

Finding Space for Passion: Interview with Promega Quality Assurance Scientist, Matt Hanson

QA Senior Scientist Matt Hanson

QA Senior Scientist Matt Hanson

When he was a kid, Matt Hanson would disappear into the basement for an entire day and emerge later with a completed model of the USS Constitution or a completed robot or a new rocket (he still makes model rockets). Design and how things fit together have always fascinated him, so a career in science was a natural fit as well.

Today Matt is a Quality Control Supervisor/QA Senior Scientist at Promega Corporation at the Madison, WI, USA, campus. He has been with Promega for 5 years now.

After completing his undergraduate studies in molecular biology, a masters in zoology where he focused on cell biology, and a PhD in developmental biology and immunology, Matt was fortunate to pursue a successful and rewarding career as an Associate Staff Scientist in the Department of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work focused on diabetes and transplantation biology.

So why did Matt join the scientific staff at Promega? Continue reading

UW Master of Science in Biotechnology Program: An Excellent Fit for both Scientists and Business Professionals

WebinarsThe University of Wisconsin’s Master of Science in Biotechnology Program (MS-Biotechnology Program) is uniquely designed for working professionals who would like to further their careers in biotechnology.  It is based on an interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on the science, law, and business of biotechnology.

Faculty represent both the academic and corporate worlds.  This has allowed the program to remain extremely applied and to focus on the skills essential for success in global biotechnology industries.

The program has been collaborating since its inception in 2002 with the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute) to provide the three laboratory-based Molecular Technologies courses.

As noted on the program’s website (www.ms-biotech.wisc.edu), it offers:

  • A curriculum like no other that integrates topics in science, business, and law
  • Powerful skills that bring the “big picture” of life sciences product development into clear focus
  • Exclusive evening/weekend courses allowing you to work full-time while enrolled
  • A completed degree in less than two years

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program, it is ideally suited for working professionals with either science backgrounds and training, or those with business or legal experience, or both.  The strong cohort nature of the program allows students with varying backgrounds to assist each other in working on topics that are not familiar to them. Continue reading

The Black Death: World Traveler or Persistent Homebody?

Spread of the Black Death. By Timemaps (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.

In the last six years, researchers have untangled the origins of devastating human plagues, sequenced the genome of a Yersinia pestis strain responsible for the Black Death and explored how long this bacterium has been with humans. However, the information arising from this research begs more questions. How many variations of Y. pestis occurred during the 14–17th centuries, the second pandemic that began with the Black Death? Did these differences reflect the location in which the Y. pestis-positive skeletons were found? What were the geographic source or sources of these plagues? A recent PLOS ONE article examined Y. pestis found in German remains separated by 500km and 300 years to answer to some of these questions. Continue reading

Dino Protein: New Methods for Old (Very) Samples

Hadrosaurus skeleton vintage engraving.

Hadrosaurus skeleton vintage engraving.

Brachylophosaurus was a mid-sized member of the hadrosaurid family of dinosaurs living about 78 million years ago, and is known from several skeletons and bonebed material from the Judith River Formation of Montana and the Oldman Formation of Alberta. Recent fossil evidence indicates structures similar to blood vessels in location and morphology, have been recovered after demineralization of multiple dinosaur cortical bone fragments from multiple specimens, some of which are as old as 80 Ma. These structures were hypothesized to be either endogenous to the bone (i.e., of vascular origin) or the result of biofilm colonizing the empty  network after degradation of original organic components (i.e., bacterial, slime mold or fungal in origin).  Cleland et al. (1) tested the hypothesis that these structures are endogenous and thus retain proteins in common with extant archosaur blood vessels that can be detected with high-resolution mass spectrometry and confirmed by immunofluorescence. Continue reading

There and Back Again 3: Christchurch, New Zealand (South Island) Travelogue

In 2014, Promega created a special incentive to reward field science consultants who help the scientific community take advantage of the our on-site stocking program. The winners had to meet ambitious criteria to receive 2 round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world, a week of paid vacation and spending money. Our four winners from 2014 will share photos and stories about their journeys in a semi-regular Friday feature on the Promega Connections Blog.

Today’s travelogue is Part III of the adventures of Mica Zaragoza, a senior client rep, who used his award to travel to Australia and New Zealand.

Helix-Travel-Blog---1-WEBAfter a day of travel, including a quick stop-off in Sydney, we arrived late in New Zealand the evening.  New Zealand is an island nation with strict customs requirements, having been stung in the past by a decision  to import the opossum.

Jumping full into the experience, we rented a car (5-speed) and headed into the City to scope out our hotel ( more on the car later).

During our time in Australia, we had spoken with several travelers who had visited Christchurch for their recommendations.  Without fail, their response was negative, using words like “destroyed” and “rubble” to describe the city.  They referred to a  series of earthquakes in 2011 that crippled the city of Christchurch; the residents were not aware of the risk and structures in the city had not been constructed to withstand such devastation. Continue reading