It Is Not Just You—Burnout Is Real

“I just feel burned out.” I heard those words recently from my college junior. For him, the spring semester is barreling to a close and he is feeling tired, unmotivated and unproductive. He isn’t alone; most of us have said (or thought) those words at some point in our lives. We use the words when we are feeling tired, stressed or overwhelmed at work (or school), but burnout is more than just an emotional response to workload or other job-related challenges. Burnout can quickly cascade into more physical symptoms and take a toll on both our personal and professional lives.

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T Cells Newly Discovered Role in Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases Could Offer Another Therapeutic Approach

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating, progressive degenerative brain condition that starts with mild   dementia symptoms like memory issues and gradually worsens to the point where you can no longer communicate or care for yourself. For anyone with personal experience with it, Alzheimer’s looms like a specter over the natural process of aging.

In the beginning phase of Alzheimer’s, abnormal plaques of the protein, amyloid-β, develop. These protein clumps can accumulate for decades with no detectable impact on cognitive ability or brain health. Eventually, a second protein, tau, begins to gather and form intercellular, fibrous, tangles. It is with the formation of these tau tangles that symptoms first appear. The combined presence of these extracellular plaques and intercellular tangles are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

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New Vaccine for Honeybees Could Take the Sting Out of Devastating American Foulbrood Disease

Our world is a complex, interdependent system, and invertebrate pollinators such as honeybees play a pivotal role in its survival. Threats to populations numbers of pollinators like honeybees can be equated to threats to the overall health and survival of the ecosystem in which they live. Of the over 20,000 known bee species, one—the western honeybee (Apis mellifera)—acts as the single most frequent pollinator for crops worldwide (1). Found on every continent except Antarctica, the western honeybee owes its status as a top pollinator to its widespread geographic distribution, generalist foraging behavior and competence as pollinators (1).

Deadly American Foulbrood Disease

Honeybees are the most economically valuable pollinators and are threatened by several pathogens (2). Perhaps the biggest threat to honeybee colony health and survival is the bacterial disease, American Foulbrood (AFB; (3). Caused by the spore-forming, Gram+ bacteria, Paenibacillus larvae, the highly contagious AFB disease affects the young brood of colonies.  When newly hatched larvae are fed spore-contaminated food, the spores germinate and replicate causing septicemia and death. P. larvae spores are incredibly resilient and can remain viable for decades (3). Each infected larva can produce over 1 billion new spores.  Thus, a colony can produce large numbers of spores with just a few cases of symptomatic brood (4).

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Small Molecule Therapies and Immunotherapies: An Introduction to Targeted Cancer Treatments

Cancer is a deceptively singular term for hundreds of different diseases. These diseases can affect almost any part of the body.  In the United States, cancer is the second most common cause of death (1). At its most basic level, however, cancer is the abnormal and uncontrolled division of cells resulting from genetic changes in one or more cells.

This prolific cell division is what many standard chemotherapies act upon. These therapies are developed to kill rapidly dividing cells but often don’t discriminate between normal and cancerous cells. In contrast, targeted therapies are designed to interact with (or target) specific pathways, processes or proteins whose abnormal behavior is associated with cancer development and growth. Targeting these abnormal cellular functions can counteract cancer in different ways. They can interfere with tumor growth, carry other drugs into tumor cells or help the immune system find and kill cancerous cells. Targeted therapies can be loosely divided into two categories: small molecule therapies and immunotherapies.

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Growing Our Understanding of Rose Rosette Virus Through Reverse Genetics

Viral particle representing lethal Rose Rosette Emaravirus with red rose.

Roses, the universal symbol of love and affection, are one of the most popular ornamental flowering shrubs used by landscapers and home gardeners and account for almost half of the billion-dollar ornamental plant market. The growing prevalence of rose rosette disease poses a significant threat to these industries.  This lethal disease is caused by the Rose rosette emaravirus (RRV) and transmitted by the tiny eriophyid mite, Phyllocoptes fructiphilus. Infection by RRV results in prolific growth of clustered and bunched plant shoots (witches’ broom), malformed flowers and leaves, malformed shoots and enlarged stems and abundant leaf growth and thorniness. This excessive growth depletes the plant’s energy, eventually causing death.

Emerging and Devastating Plant Viruses of the Genus Emaravirus

RRV is a single-stranded, segmented, negative-sense RNA virus belonging to the genus Emaravirus, a relatively new genus that was established in 2012. These emerging viruses can be devastating to trees, herbaceous woody plants and vines. At Texas A&M University, Dr. Jeanmarie Verchot’s lab is working to better characterize and understand these new viruses. In addition to threatening roses, these viruses cause damage to important agriculture crops such as wheat and pigeon peas. They also endanger sensitive ecosystems when they infect plants specialized to a particular habitat, as is the case with Palo verde broom virus infection of palo verde trees of the Sonoran Desert (1).

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From Outside the Window to Inside the Cell: How Photography has Broadened Our View of the World

Photography. From the time the first image was captured almost 200 years ago, people have been using photography techniques to record, improve and expand their world.  Joseph Nicéphore Niépce is credited with capturing the very first photograph—a view of outside his window—using a technique called heliography. From that blurry, one-of-a-kind print to the stunning images captured today we can capture using our mobile phones, the advances in personal photography have been phenomenal. But progress has not been limited to capturing images of the world we see, scientists have leveraged these advances into new tools to capture images of the world we can’t see.

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Monkeypox—Another Zoonotic Virus Making Headlines

Monkeypox has been making the news lately, and it has a lot of people wondering what it is, how it spreads and if they should be concerned. Understandably, we are all a little jumpy when we start hearing about a new viral outbreak, but monkeypox isn’t new. While the virus gained its unfortunate name from its discovery in monkeys in 1958 (1), it exists in a wide range of mammals including rodents, anteaters, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, squirrels and shrews (2) and can spread to humans through close contact with an infected animal.

Artists rendering of monkeypox on a torso.

A member of the Poxviridae family, monkeypox is closely related to the variola virus that causes smallpox; however, monkeypox causes milder symptoms and is rarely fatal (3). The genetic variant of the virus that is causing the recent outbreaks has a fatality rate of <4% (4). In contrast, smallpox fatality rate was close to 30% (4). Symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle and back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion (2). The most distinguishing symptom is the blister-like rash.

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PD-1 Blockade Treatment shows 100% Tumor Resolution in Mismatch Repair Deficient Rectal Cancer Patients

Rectal cancer cases are rising in young adults (1). Typically, these cancers are treated with a multipronged approach that includes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. These treatments show complete response in approximately 25% of patients and come with a long list of toxic side effects and life-altering complications including negative effects on bladder and bowel function, sexual health and fertility issues (2). 

artistic image of cancer cell and immunotherapeutic agents such as PD-1 blockade

Approximately 5–10% of rectal cancers have deficiencies in their mismatch repair mechanisms (dMMR), and these cancers tend to be less responsive to standard chemotherapy treatments (2). Tumors are identified as dMMR using either immunohistochemistry (IHC) to detect the presence or absence of the major mismatch repair proteins, or by molecular testing for high-frequency microsatellite instability (MSI-H), the functional evidence of dMMR . These tumors often have somatic mutations that produce “foreign” proteins that can be detected by the immune system. As a result, these tumors are effective at priming an immune response and tend to respond well to immune checkpoint therapies such as PD-1 blockade treatments. Immune checkpoint blockade, or immune checkpoint inhibitor, therapies are a revolutionary, and relatively new, approach to treating cancer. Some tumors express immune checkpoints to prevent the immune system from producing a strong enough immune response to kill the cancer cells. Immune checkpoint blockade therapies work by blocking immune checkpoint proteins that act to negatively regulate the immune system through the PD-1 pathway. When these checkpoint proteins are blocked, the body’s T-cells can recognize and kill the cancer cells.

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Protecting Pollinators: What is All the Buzz About “No Mow May”?

Pollinators A bee pollinating a wildflowers

Ah summer. The time for lazy afternoons spent dozing in a hammock, lulled to sleep by the quiet buzz of bees hard at work collecting nectar and pollen from the first flowers of the year. It sounds idyllic, but unfortunately, such afternoons are falling increasingly silent. As uniformly green lawns replace patchworks of dandelions and clover, the bees are disappearing.

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Volunteering. A Celebration of Service, Community and Connection

Promega Madison employees volunteering to gather trash from roadside ditches.
Promega Madison employees gather trash from roadside ditches.

Volunteering is willingly giving your time and effort without expecting something in return. The month of April is volunteer month, and April 20 is national volunteer recognition day, so we are taking this chance to celebrate volunteers and the work they do that benefits us all. Fundamentally, volunteering is about service to others, but that service can take on many different forms. Promega recognizes the benefits that volunteering brings to our employees as well as our local and global communities. Our Promega in Action program offers Madison-based employees the chance to volunteer their time and talents; applicants get up to 40 hours of extra paid time off to work with the charity or organization of their choice.

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