NO! I CAN do that.

FemaleWhiteLab-AAES001042Today’s blog is written by guest blogger Jessica Laux, a production scientist at Promega Corporation. Jessica spends most of her time in clean rooms. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in Natural Science-Animal Sciences.

I was always a very stubborn, defiant child. This is evidenced by the fact that my very first word was “NO!”, which I screamed at the top of my lungs after I had been scolded for pulling all the pots and pans out of the kitchen cupboards. Years later, I still scream “NO!” at times, though I’ve refrained from making a mess of the kitchen lately. That same defiant spirit contributed a great deal to my chosen career.

At a ripe age of ten, I determined I was destined to become a great doctor. My preparation for this career involved writing morbid stories where I brought the dead back to life, as well as poring over the pages of a medical diagnostic book I had claimed as mine. I was not deterred by my inability to understand the big words. I was still able to draw the detailed human anatomy and skeletons with an impressive precision. A couple years later, an adult whom I trusted told me that science and medicine were fields for men only. This same person encouraged me to pursue my artistic talents instead. Continue reading

Tell Me Your Story

interviewNext time you have a job interview, try not to think of it as a question and answer session, but instead think of it as an opportunity to tell your story. Boring questions tend to lead to boring answers, so that’s what recruiters and hiring managers often get. Before reciting a canned answer to the question “How would you describe your leadership style?” or “What is your greatest strength?”, take a step back and come up with a story to explain your answer. You’ll come across as more charming, a great communicator and the interviewer will get a chance to know you better. Continue reading

Using Laser Treatment to Eliminate Blood-Borne Pathogens

One unit of fresh frozen plasma By DiverDave (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

Keeping our blood supply safe is increasingly difficult in the face of newly discovered pathogens that can be transmitted via blood. The tests developed to ensure the blood is free of pathogens like HIV and HBV are based on known pathogens and available screening tests. What about an emerging virus? How can we ensure our blood is safe in the face of the virus we know nothing about? The PLOS ONE article by Tsen et al. explored how a nonchemical treatment using ultrashort pulsed lasers might be used to eliminate viruses from blood plasma.

The authors used ultrashort pulsed (USP) lasers in their research as this treatment is known to inactivate a spectrum of bacteria and viruses including nonenveloped viruses, a class of virus that resists inactivation. Furthermore, the laser treatment is nonionizing and does not modify proteins covalently, meaning that proteins present in blood are likely to remain active even after exposure to USP lasers. The viruses that were tested for inactivation by USP laser in human plasma were an enveloped RNA virus human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), nonenveloped RNA virus hepatitis A virus (HAV) and enveloped DNA virus murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). Continue reading

When DNA Is Not Enough: New Research Suggests Epigenetic Factors Play an Important Role in the High Mortality Rate of the Devi Facial Tumor Disease

tazThe Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) is a contagious cancer in Tasmanian Devils that is threatening the species with extinction. This disease is spread from individual to individual and has a 100% mortality rate. It is so deadly because, although the DFTF cells should be attached and killed by the host devil’s immune system, for some reason they are not—and no one is sure why. A study published in PNAS in March of last year (1) showed that DFTD cells don’t express surface MHC molecules. MHC class I and class II molecules are crucial for proper immune response, and their absence on the cell surface could explain why the DFTD cells do not stimulate an immune response.

The authors found that the loss of MHC expression is maintained as the cells divide, and is not a result of structural mutations in the genes responsible for MHC expression. Instead the authors found that this down regulation was the result of regulatory changes including epigenetic modifications to histones. Continue reading

Daydreaming: The Benefits of a Little Mental Break

Not staring off into space, rather crafting future plans.

Not staring off into space, rather crafting future plans.

Scott Barry Kaufman earned a doctorate in cognitive psychology from Yale University in 2009, preceeded by a masters degree in experimental psychology from Cambridge University in 2005.  This after he spent grades 1-8 in special education. Multiple early childhood ear infections caused him setbacks both education-wise  and socially. Continual bullying by a special education classmate may have further contributed to a lack of progress in early schooling.

Kaufman tells of how he, as a child, retreated to an inner world where he wrote stories, created soap opera plotlines and imagined a future as a successful psychologist.

He also tells how these mental retreats earned him no love from teachers. As you might guess, this inward-turning nature was used as further evidence of his learning disability.

But Kaufman was learning the power of daydreaming. While he was not convincing his teachers and classmates of any particularly strong cognitive abilities, he was basically planning a future that he ultimately achieved, despite somewhat incredible odds. In addition, he was, through daydreaming, reinforcing his dreams.

Today Kaufman is one of a number of psychology experts that are doing research, writing and speaking on the power and benefits of daydreams. Continue reading

Mass Spectrometry Application: Antibody Quantitation for Preclinical PK studies

Isoform_Antibodies_LinkedInTherapeutic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) represent the majority of therapeutics biologics now on the market, with more than 20 mAbs approved as drugs (1–3). During preclinical development of therapeutic antibodies, multiple variants of each antibody are assessed for pharmacokinetic (PK) characteristics across model systems such as rodents, beagles and  primates. Ligand-binding assays (LBA) are the standard technology used to perform the PK studies for mAb candidates (4). Ligand-binding assays (LBAs) are methods used  to detect and measure a macromolecular interaction between a ligand and a binding molecule. In LBAs, a therapeutic monoclonal antibody is considered to be the ligand, or analyte of interest, while the binding molecule is usually a target protein.

LBAs have certain well-documented limitations (5). Specific assay reagents are often not available early in a program. Interferences from endogenous proteins, antidrug antibodies, and soluble target ligands are potential complicating factors.

Liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS)-based methods represent a viable and complementary addition to LBA for mAb quantification in biological matrixes. LC–MS/MS provides specificity, sensitivity, and multiplexing capability.

A recent reference (6) illustrates an automated method to perform LC–MS/MS-based quantitation, with IgG1 conserved peptides, a heavy isotope labeled mAb internal standard,and anti-human Fc enrichment. The method was applied to the pharmacokinetic study of a mAb dosed in cynomolgus monkey, and the results were compared with the immunoassay data. The interesting finding of the difference between ELISA and LC–MRM-MS data indicated that those two methods can provide complementary information regarding the drug’s PK profile.

Literature Cited

  1. Mao, T. et al. (2013) Top-Down Structural Analysis of an Intact Monoclonal Antibody by Electron Capture Dissociation-Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance-Mass Spectrometry. Anal.Chem. 85, 4239–46.
  2. Weiner, L. M. et al. (2010) Monoclonal antibodies: versatile platforms for cancer immunotherapy. Nat. Rev. Immunol. 10, 317–27.
  3. Nelson, A. et al. (2010) Development trends for human monoclonal antibody therapeutics. Nat. Rev. Drug Discovery. 9, 767–74.
  4. DeSilva, B. et al. (2003) Recommendations for the Bioanalytical Method Validation of Ligand-Binding Assays to Support Pharmacokinetic Assessments of MacromoleculesPharm. Res. 20, 1885–00.
  5. Ezan, E.et al. (2009) Critical comparison of MS and immunoassays for the bioanalysis of therapeutic antibodiesBioanalysis 1, 1375–88.
  6. Zhang, Q. et al. (2014) Generic Automated Method for Liquid Chromatography–Multiple Reaction Monitoring Mass Spectrometry Based Monoclonal Antibody Quantitation for Preclinical Pharmacokinetic Studies. Anal.Chem. 86, 8776–84.

Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat to Mankind?

Artificial intelligenceTechnology: We all use it, and some of us couldn’t go an entire day without it. In many ways, digital technology has improved our lives by increasing productivity and communication. Computer technology is everywhere: our homes, offices, phones and even cars. Technology has integrating into our lives so completely that most of us no longer stop to marvel at even the [seemingly] simplest capabilities such as the predictive software that our smart phones use to predict which word we are typing after we type in only the first few letters, especially if the software gets it wrong much of the time. However, digital technology has its dangers and inconveniences: cybercrime, hackers, stolen data, and computer crashes and failed Wi-Fi connections at the most inopportune times. In a recent BBC interview, one of modern science’s most brilliant minds highlighted another potential danger: artificial intelligence. Does artificial intelligence pose a threat to mankind?

Continue reading

Christensenellaceae—A Natural Way to Stay Thin?

microbiome studies show how bacterial colonists influence healthA study published in the Nov 6 issue of Cell outlined results suggesting that an obscure family of bacteria colonizing the human gut may be inherited and may also have a direct influence on body weight. The paper is the first to identify such an association and to link a particular microbial colonist with lower BMI. Continue reading

Welcome to the Anthropocene? Only a Retrospective Analysis Will Tell

512px-Geologic_Clock_with_events_and_periods.svgThe 4.54 billion-year history of the earth is divided into many subdivisions: eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages with each division representing a smaller chunk of geologic time. If you are a parent of a young child and you happen to have viewed several episodes of the children’s educational program Dinosaur Train, you are probably familiar with the Mesozoic Era and the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Geologic history is recorded in rocks—layer upon layer accumulates, each layer revealing the geological, ecological and biological events that occurred over the time period that it was deposited. These geologic records tell us about the plants and animal life that could be found hundreds, thousands or millions of years ago. The minerals and chemicals of the rocks can tell us about climate, and sudden changes in the rock layers can tell us about sudden changes on earth.

Many natural forces have shaped the Earth that we know today. Bombardment from extra-planetary objects has left craters and correlate mass extinction events in the geologic record (1). Oceans once covered areas that are now prairies, where if you look long enough or deep enough you might just find a fossil of a previously unknown fish (2). Wind has shaped the earth by eroding and depositing soil. The Loess Hills of western Iowa, USA, (3) and the Loess Plateau of China (4) are two examples of wind-created land forms each created by the slow, wind-driven deposition of soil particles. Of course, water too, is a major force for creating canyons and gorges. The Indus River in Asia, for instance, has been estimated to deepen its course between 2 and 12mm/year in the gorge areas and is capable of removing blocks of rocks measuring up to 70cm (5), and the Grand Canyon in the United States was formed by the erosive power of the Colorado River (6).

So clearly, the forces of Nature on Earth and the occasional meteor from space have played major roles in shaping the Earth that we climb, dive, hike, bike and stroll on today. However, is Nature still the major force at working shaping the Earth? Or is the human species assuming that role? Continue reading

Career Development for Working Professionals: UW Master of Science in Biotechnology Program

Prior to the Masters in Biotechnology program, I had no working knowledge of Intellectual Property (IP), e.g., patents, trademarks, etc. The M.S. in Biotechnology program not only opened my eyes to Intellectual Property and its importance in biotechnology companies, but it sparked my interested in a career in an IP field. From the knowledge I gained and connections made in the program, I have been able to achieve a career in IP. I am now happy to be able to share my experience and knowledge with current and future students in the program.
—Heather Gerard, M.S. (2006) Intellectual Property Manager, Promega Corporation

Since 2002, the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute) has been effectively collaborating with the UW Master of Science in Biotechnology Program (MS-Biotechnology) to provide the three lab-based Molecular Technologies courses for this unique degree designed for working professionals.

As noted on the program’s web site, it offers:

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

Continue reading