Blending Art and Science in a Costa Rica Physics Lab

Sophia Speece engaged her passions for art and science during her internship in Costa Rica.
UW-Madison student Sophia Speece (left) spent the summer in Costa Rica for the “Artist in the Science Lab” internship hosted by alum Dr. Mariela Porras Chaverri (right)

My name is Sophia Speece. I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Biomedical Engineering and Music Performance. As you can imagine, there is not a lot of overlap between these two passions of mine.

This past summer I was given the unique opportunity to combine these two areas. I applied and was accepted for the “Artist in the Science Lab” internship abroad in Costa Rica!

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Elevate Your Research: Exploring the Power of 8-Dye STR Chemistry with the Spectrum Compact CE System

In genetic research, staying at the forefront of technology is crucial. The latest breakthrough in human identification comes in the form of 8-dye Short Tandem Repeat (STR) chemistry. This innovation promises unprecedented precision and accuracy in DNA analysis, revolutionizing the way we approach genetic studies. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of 8-color chemistry and explore how it seamlessly integrates with the game-changing Spectrum Compact CE System.

Understanding 8-Dye STR Chemistry

The introduction of 8-dye chemistry expands the capability of STR analysis, enabling researchers to analyze more DNA markers with smaller amplicons, providing more robust data from degraded or inhibited DNA samples.  The performance of the 8-color dye chemistries from Promega on the Spectrum Compact CE System is sensitive, with both chemsitries (PowerPlex® 35 GY System and the upcoming PowerPlex® 18 E System) producing 100% profiles from their suggested inputs down to as little as 62.5 pg of DNA. The 18E system produced 100% profiles down to 31.25 pg of input DNA with minimal signal bleed through and low system noise.

Table showing percent STR profiles generated with decreasing input DNA using the PowerPlex 35GY or PowerPlex 18 E chemistry on the Spectrum Compact CE System
Table showing percent profiles generated with decreasing input DNA using the PowerPlex® 35GY or PowerPlex® 18E chemistry on the Spectrum Compact CE System.
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No Horsin’ around with Halal Meat Authentication


Today’s blog is written by guest blogger, Sameer Moorji, Director, Applied Markets.  

People’s diets are frequently influenced by a wide range of variables; with environment, socioeconomic status, religion, and culture being a few of the key influencers. The Muslim community serves as one illustration of how culture and religion can hold influence over people’s eating habits.

Halal meat on cutting board

Muslims, who adhere to Islamic teachings derived from the Qur’an, frequently base dietary choices on a food’s halal status, whether it is permissible to consume, or haram status, forbidden to consume. With the population of Muslims expected to expand from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, the demand for halal products is anticipated to surge (2).

By 2030, the global halal meat market is projected to reach over $300 billion dollars, with Asia-Pacific and the Middle East regions being the largest consumers and producers of halal meat products (3). Furthermore, increasing awareness and popularity of halal meat among non-Muslim consumers, as well as strengthening preference for ethical and high-quality meat, are all contributing to demand.  

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Recapping the 2022 iGEM Grand Jamboree

On October 26, hundreds of young scientists made their way through Paris to convene at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles for the world’s largest synthetic biology competition. The iGEM Grand Jamboree showcases student projects from around the world that tackle real-world challenges such as nutrition, diagnostics and climate change.

Each year, ten Promega iGEM Grant winners receive $2,500 in free Promega products to support their research. Many Promega branch offices also provide support to teams within their region. In total, 36 iGEM teams were supported by Promega during the 2022 competition.

Promega staff at the 2022 iGEM jamboree
Representatives from Promega France and Promega Madison meet iGEM competitors during the Jamboree

Six representatives from Promega Madison, France and Germany attended the Jamboree. We met so many incredible scientists and had countless conversations about the exciting future of synthetic biology. At the Closing Ceremonies, we were thrilled to see many of our sponsored teams take home gold medals, trophies, and even the coveted BioBrick Trophy.

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COVID-19 Intranasal Vaccines: Right on the Nose?

Last updated April 28, 2023

covid-19 intranasal vaccines

COVID-19 is still a global pandemic. Around the world, as of 5:40pm CEST, 26 April 2023, there have been 764,474,387 cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,915,655 deaths, reported to the World Health Organization. As of 24 April 2023, a total of 13,325,228,015 vaccine doses have been administered. The adoption of vaccines worldwide continues to increase, yet periodic spikes and surges in infection rates continue to occur with new SARS-CoV-2 variants, such as that observed in Australia in Jan 2022. Vaccine booster doses provide effective protection against developing severe disease and hospitalization, but vaccine adoption and distribution face ongoing challenges in low- and middle-income (LMIC) countries (1). The development of intranasal vaccines could help alleviate some of the challenges in these areas. Therapeutic interventions for those already infected are in development, with one (Paxlovid) currently available under emergency use authorization (EUA) in the US.

Cumulative COVID-19 statistics by country: WHO COVID-19 Dashboard. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2020. Available online: https://covid19.who.int/ (last cited: April 28, 2023).

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What You Need, When You Need It: Monitoring and Responding to Ongoing Supply Chain Disruptions

Today’s blog is written by Brady Musson, Director of Global Logistics at Promega.

Our priority is ensuring that Promega customers receive everything they need, exactly when they need it. As the Director of Global Logistics at Promega, that is my primary focus, and the expertise of my entire team. I want to assure you that we’re doing everything we can so you can focus on keeping your work moving.

There are many factors that go into realizing these goals, and I would like to take a moment to address how Promega is managing some of the recent challenges. Our long-term, sustainable approach to business helps us weather uncertainty and instability. Our strong network of relationships allows us to explore creative solutions when challenges arise. Above all, our employees are willing to do what it takes to support the important work being done by life scientists around the world.

Promega is working hard to ensure that supply chain disruptions do not affect scientists' abilities to further their work using Promega technologies.
Kepler Center is the home of Promega customer service, kit packaging and shipping.
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iGEM Team Explores Regenerative Spinal Cord Treatment with Promega Support

Today’s blog is written by KCL iGEM Team Leaders Alya Masoud Abdelhafid and Luke Bateman. Both in their third and final year at King’s College London, Alya is completing a BSc in Nutrition and Luke a BSc in Biochemistry.  

Every year, the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) offers high-school, undergraduate and post-graduate students the opportunity to conduct independent research using synthetic biology and genetic engineering to develop solutions to local and global problems.

More than 350 teams from around the world participate in iGEM, which culminates in a presentation at the global iGEM Giant Jamboree, attended by more than 6000 people every year. Here, novel research is presented amongst pioneers in synthetic biology, and outstanding projects are awarded prizes for their contribution to the greater scientific community. iGEM teams consistently produce ground-breaking solutions to modern challenges, many of which facilitate the development of multimillion-dollar companies and start-ups.

We are the King’s College London (KCL) iGEM team and are honored to be involved in the innovative and prestigious iGEM community.

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Monitoring Cellular Metabolism for NAFLD/NASH Liver Disease Research

In this blog, Dr. Jolanta Vidugiriene, Senior Research Scientist at Promega Corporation, discusses tools for studying metabolism in NAFLD/NASH research.

Dr. Jolanta Vidugiriene, Senior Research Scientist at Promega Corporation, discusses tools for studying metabolism in NAFLD/NASH research

What is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)?

NAFLD is not a simple disease, it is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions. The main defining characteristic of NAFLD is fat accumulation in the liver, called steatosis. In about 20% of people, steatosis is accompanied by inflammation, which is a more severe form of NAFLD called NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). NASH can progress to more advanced conditions like liver cirrhosis and liver failure. Most of the time, NAFLD is associated with underlying conditions—it is closely related to metabolic dysfunction, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. To better reflect the disease pathology, there has been a lot of discussion in the field recently to rename NAFLD to MAFLD, for metabolic associated fatty liver disease. Even though NAFLD has been studied for many years, the causes and progression of the disease are still not well understood. There are no FDA-approved diagnostic tools or treatments for it yet.

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Finding the Right Maxwell® RSC Kit for Your Nucleic Acid Extraction

This blog was written by guest writers Paraj Mandrekar (Technical Services Scientist 3) and Michelle Mandrekar, (Research Scientist 4).

Here are some designer’s notes comparing the Maxwell® RSC Blood DNA and the Maxwell® RSC simplyRNA kit chemistries for nucleic acid extraction.

The Maxwell RSC Blood DNA Kit and Maxwell RSC simplyRNA Blood Kit were both developed from the same non-silica-based purification chemistry and use the same underlying paramagnetic particle. This chemistry is characterized by an extreme binding capacity (the capacity of nucleic acid that can be bound on the particle), leading to both chemistries being capable of isolating large amounts of nucleic acid volumes and then eluting into relatively small volumes (50 µL). It is not unusual with either chemistry to have isolates that exceed 100 ng/µL. Although the chemistries have several similarities, there are some important distinctions between how the two chemistries were designed that influence which kit you choose for your nucleic acid extraction.

Image of blood with molecules of DNA and RNA superimposed Nucleic Acid Extraction
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Finding the Latest Science News While On the Go

Today’s guest blog was written in collaboration with Melissa Martin, a former global marketing intern with Promega. She is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she is double majoring in zoology and life sciences communication, with a certificate in environmental studies.

Have you ever found yourself wondering what the newest advancements were on genetically engineering plants or using artificial intelligence in biotechnology but didn’t know where to start looking? You most likely know the basic science behind the headlines, but a general web search may lead to dramatized articles that focus more on getting attention than being accurate. Or you might find a scholarly article that will offer in-depth, peer-reviewed information but may require more time to read than you are willing to give.

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