Searching for Secrets in Single Cells

There has been a lot of effort recently to perform whole genome sequencing, for humans and other species. The results yield new frontiers of data analysis that offer a lot of promise for groundbreaking scientific discoveries.

One objective of human genome sequencing has been to identify sources of disease and new therapeutic targets. This movement has opened the door to create personalized medicine for cancer, whereby the genetic makeup of an individual’s tumors can be used to determine the most effective drug intervention to administer.

Interest in studying the characteristics unique to individual cells seems obvious when considering the function of healthy cells versus tumor cells, or brain cells compared to heart cells. What has surprised scientists is the realization that two cells in the same tissue can be more different from each other, genetically, than from a cell in another organ.

For example, a small number of brain cells with a specific mutation can lead to some forms of epilepsy while healthy people may also carry cells with these mutations, but too few to cause disease. The lineage of a cell, where it came from and what events shaped its development, ultimately determines what diseases can exist.

Continue reading

Creating ART from 3D Printed Ovaries

It is remarkable to me how quickly in vitro fertilization has gone from an experimental, controversial and prohibitively expensive procedure to becoming a mainstream option for those struggling with fertility issues. What was unheard of in my parents’ generation is nothing extraordinary among my friends who are having children.

My personal observations are supported by the CDC, which reported that 1.6% of all infants born in the U.S. in 2015 were the result of assisted reproductive technology (ART). This is a 33% increase since 2006, which can be attributed to rapid advances and refinements of the various technologies available to those seeking reproductive assistance.

It challenges the mind to imagine what reproductive technologies might be widespread when my children and their friends are adults. When experts speculate about the future of human reproduction, there always seems to be a lot of focus on provocative scenarios that portend a dystopian future, such as designer babies. What gets lost are some of the more general scientific advances that are being applied to ART in fascinating ways.

While improvements in reproductive technologies serve many, one group that remains underserved are pediatric cancer patients. As a result of treatment, these patients are often faced with impaired ovarian function that can prevent puberty and result in infertility. In vitro fertilization and ovarian transplants are currently used, but do not provide lasting solutions for all individuals.

In response to this need, researchers are working to develop an organ replacement that can provide long-term hormone function and fertility for all patients.  A recent study in Nature Communications presented encouraging results in mice using bioprosthetic ovaries that may further revolutionize the field of ART. Continue reading

How Mindfulness Can Lead to a Happier Life

meditationI never hated my trips to the dentist until the anesthetic injection didn’t work and I felt everything the dentist was doing as he relentlessly drilled my molar. We eventually figured out why the injection didn’t work and solved the problem. I have had numerous pain-free visits since then, yet each time I’m in that chair my mind is anticipating impending doom.

The last time I went to the dentist, I decided to try a different approach. Continue reading

Promega Employees Find Their Muse in Company Band

Becky Guy (keyboard), Randy  Dimond (left), Eric Vincent (Trombone) play for the Promega Employee Recognition Meeting as part of Lead Generation.

Becky Guy (keyboard), Randy Dimond (left), Eric Vincent (Trombone) play for the Promega Employee Recognition Meeting as part of Lead Generation.

Musicians wait onstage as the sound tech adjusts the cables around them. He signals “OK” and runs back through the seats of the empty auditorium to the mixing board. The musicians all dressed in black, instruments in hand, prepare to play. Four sharp whacks from the drummer’s sticks and music fills the space. Horns, keyboards, electric guitar, bass, and harmonica back singers as they belt out the upbeat earworm Drive It Like You Stole It. They sound great and make it look pretty effortless too, which is why it’s hard to believe these “rock stars” are also scientists, marketers, IT specialists, lawyers, you name it, who make up the Promega employee band, Lead Generation. (Thank marketing for the name.)

“Lead Generation is just one of the many opportunities at Promega that make it truly unique,” says Kris Zimmerman, a research scientist who sings and plays trumpet with the band. “Any kind of expression of creativity can help you to have different perspectives and be a better problem solver. Fostering an environment where collaboration and creativity are rewarded really helps to create a sense of belonging, and creates a vibe of excitement that you don’t find just anywhere. Plus how cool is it to tell people that you play in a band? At work?”

Continue reading

Taking a Second Look at Flexible Spending Accounts

22722908 - blue piggy bank with stethoscope for check your financeAre you looking for a way to save money on those need-to-have items that you buy throughout the year?  You know, not fun items or cool clothing, but rather those medical expenses that have a way of draining your wallet?  Have you ever considered using a medical Flexible Spending Account (FSA)?  Flexible Spending Accounts have been around for over 50 years, initially created in the 1970’s by the Internal Revenue Service as a solution to the addition of deductibles and elimination of dental and vision insurance by many employer-sponsored health insurance plans. The expenses that insurance didn’t cover – but employees still experienced – were given a tax-free pass by the IRS up to an annual limit.

Over the years the accounts have gone through many changes:  adding the convenience of debit-card access, on-line claims submission services, increases in the annual limits, and elimination of many over-the counter expenses as eligible.  So how do you know what you can and cannot use the account for, and is it really worth the hassle of claims submission? Continue reading

More Than Just a Belt—The Benefits of Practicing Martial Arts

Two years ago my, then ten-year-old, daughter and I started a journey together. We joined a local dojo (karate school). At the time my daughter was still looking for ‘her’ activity, and after trying both girl scouts and 4H as well as several intramural sports, I reached back into her early childhood when she had enjoyed participating in karate classes as a three and four year old. I was hoping to find an activity that we could share (much as her brother and father share camping and outings with Boy Scouts) that we would both find challenging and enjoyable—and maybe part of me had secretly always wanted to be a ninja.

A number of friends, family and even acquaintances have expressed surprise that this was the activity that my daughter and I settled on, or more specifically, that I was taking up karate as an adult. We tend to associate karate with classes of kids in white gis, or with high-intensity, high-level competitive martial artists, which we typically think of as male. But this is not a “kid only” or “male only” sport. According to the New York City-based research firm, Simmons Market Research, over 18.1 million Americans participated in karate or some other form of martial art at least once, and roughly 9.4 million were adults. The study also found that gender is pretty evenly split between men (52%) and women (48%). Karate is popular globally, with an estimated 50 to 100 million practitioners worldwide (Japan web and World Karate Federation, respectively), and was one of five new sports added to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

karate girl in mirrorMartial Arts Improves Physical and Cognitive Performance in Youth

It is easy to find the reasons why people enroll their children in martial arts training. Participation in karate has been shown to improve physical performance in children and young adults as measured by such things as better coordination, reaction speed time, explosive leg strength and muscle endurance (1, 2). At the same time, children participating in karate also score better than their peers on executive functions, working memory and visual selective attention (1). Karate has also shown promise in helping with behavior issues by improving self-regulation and executive function (3).

When you look at the literature, though, it is clear that the benefits of martial arts such as karate are not limited to children and teens. Continue reading

Promega Spain Gets Moving Outdoors For A Cause

A bike ride through the beautiful countryside, or even a routine walk to the corner store, is good for both body and soul. But sometimes even that’s not enough to get us moving in the fresh air. So our Promega Biotech Ibérica branch recently found a way to raise the stakes, and make outdoor activity even more valuable for its employees.

Promega Biotech Ibérica collected images of the beautiful Spanish countryside during their Kilometros Solidarios campaign.

Promega Biotech Ibérica collected images of the beautiful Spanish countryside during their Kilometros Solidarios campaign.

Last summer, the branch came up with the idea to donate one euro to the children’s oncology department of Hospital La Paz in Madrid for every kilometer its staff biked, walked or ran outside. The idea behind Kilometros Solidarios (Solidarity Kilometers) was simple but powerful: healthy activity leading directly to the health of others.

The plan worked. During the months of July, August and September, employees got up and outside and the branch raised €1884 (about $1993 USD) toward the purchase of a much-needed portable ultrasound machine for the hospital. (To point out the obvious, 1884 kilometers of outdoor activity were racked up by just 15 employees. That’s 4710 times around an Olympic track, or about the same distance as walking, biking or running from Promega Ibérica to Promega GmbH or from the Promega Madison headquarters straight south to the Gulf of Mexico.) Continue reading

You Become Your Habits

29980706-AugustBlog-BrainPuzzleHumans are, by nature, creatures of habit. The Experts Blog from the Cleveland Clinic tells us up to 95% of our thoughts are repeated every day–habitual thoughts, and they can take root in our lives without our conscious realization. Habits help us get through the day. Imagine having to wake up each morning and decide what you should do next. Knowing that you need to shower, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, etc. saves us some major brain power. Problems can occur when our habits unknowingly become incongruent with our values and goals. Many of us have habits that no longer serve us, such as smoking, the way we respond to our spouse or the thoughts we have about ourselves. These habits can keep us stuck and they don’t leave much room for creative thought and solving problems.

The obvious question is “how can we break free from obstructive habits?” Committing to just 10-15 minutes of meditation per day will create changes in the brain that allow you to increase the time between stimulus and response, which will give you greater freedom in how you respond and react. The cultivation of conscious awareness through meditation, therefore, can help us break habits that are unhealthy or that are no longer serving us. Just by recognizing our habits and placing our attention on them they will begin to soften. With commitment we can begin to see these habits change.

If you want to try an experiment, pay attention to the choices you make and your reactions over the next few days. Make a mental note of these thoughts and reactions and decide if they are in line with your values. You may also begin to notice what triggers precede these habitual responses.  If they are thoughts or actions you’d like to change, make an intention to respond differently next time. No one can break these deeply rooted patterns all at once, but by noticing and deciding what you’d like to do differently, you will be taking a huge step forward in the process.

How’s That for Wellness?

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just trying to find a fun activity to do with a coworker, a 5K run/walk can be a fun event for all.  Promega recently hosted its 7th annual 5K run/walk and had more than 155 participants at the Madison, WI,  location.  The event was a fun activity for everyone to get out, get active and be social. The event also helped raise over 160 pounds of food and over $115 in cash that was donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

As a nation, we have become more focused on our health and wellness than ever before. Nearly everyone is trying to drink more water, be more mindful of what they eat, and it’s hard to look around the room without finding someone wearing a fitness tracker to keep track of their daily steps.  Health and wellness has also become increasingly popular in the workplace. According to Health Fitness Revolution, the top benefits of a Workplace Wellness Program are as follow:

  • Fun
  • Improved Productivity
  • Happiness
  • Sense of Community
  • Lower Healthcare Costs
  • Sense of Accomplishment
  • Improved Physical Fitness
  • Weight Loss
  • Less Stress
  • Healthier Habits

At Promega our focus on wellness as an organization is no different. We recognize that being active and taking care of your health, and your family’s health, has an impact beyond how you feel.  Because of that, we have a wellness or fitness center in each of our facilities to make staying active and fit more convenient. We also believe that wellbeing extends beyond physical health and have a campus that features native gardens with walking paths and dedicated meditative spaces to encourage total wellness. Promega strives to be a leader in health & wellness initiatives that enable our employees to become the best version of themselves. We don’t do this for a potential monetary return on the investment, but because we truly believe that by becoming the best version of yourself, our employees also become the most fulfilled.

 

In the Moment with Promega Software Designer, Dave Romanin

26062334-portrait-WEBWhen Dave Romanin came to work for Promega he was fresh out of school with a degree in bacteriology. His plan was to work for a year in manufacturing and then go back to graduate school. But in the end, he didn’t go. There was no incentive, he explains, for him to spend five years in graduate school making little to no money. He didn’t want to write grants or run his own lab, and he enjoyed what he was doing.

Twenty‐four years later, Dave is still here. He’s moved around a bit, first manufacturing, then dispensing, kit packaging and then on to software development with Lou Mezei. Their first software project was a quality control software to capture data from the scales weighing bottles to ensure they were filled correctly. His experience in manufacturing helped him understand what the program needed to do and helped him define the specifications for the software for the programmer. He has been designing software for the last 10 years, and has worked on projects for everyone from marketing to manufacturing.

He describes his job, in part, as a game of cat and mouse. Dave spends hours testing the software, trying to find the weaknesses the developer didn’t anticipate—in essence, trying to break it. When he finds something that throws the software off or causes it to crash, he and the programmer decide on the next steps. Sometimes it is an easy fix, and sometimes they have to decide if it is worth what it would take to fix it. Would a user be likely to ever do what Dave did? Continue reading