Public awareness of mental disorders has increased over the past decade. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression are both debilitating and complex to approach therapeutically. Recent research has begun exploring monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes as potential treatment options. MAO enzymes are responsible for the metabolism of monoamine neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, such as serotonin and dopamine (Jones & Raghanti, 2021). Abnormal levels of these neurotransmitters within the nervous system are a key characteristic of several neurological conditions. Thus, exploring MAO regulation may help our understanding of these complex clinical conditions.Continue reading “Monoamine Oxidase and Mental Health: From Psychedelics to Diet”
When looking at small aspects of living things, especially cells, it can often be difficult to fully grasp the magnitude of regulation employed within them. We first learn the central dogma in high school biology. This is the core concept that DNA makes RNA and RNA makes protein. Despite this early education, it can be lost on many the biological methods that are employed to regulate this process. This regulation is very important when one considers the disastrous things that can occur when this process goes askew, such as cancer, or dysregulated cell death. Therefor it is very important to understand how these regulatory mechanisms work and employ tools to better understand them.Continue reading “Small RNA Transfection: How Small Players Can Make a Big Impact”
In our third and final installment of the Promega qPCR Grant Recipient blog series, we highlight Dr. Sabrina Alves dos Reis, a trained immunotherapy researcher. Her work has focused on developing tools for more accessible cancer therapies using CAR-T cells. Here, we explore Dr. Alves dos Reis’ academic and scientific journeys, highlight influential mentorship and foreshadow her plans for the Promega qPCR grant funds.
Dr. Alves dos Reis’ career began with a strong affinity for biology. As an undergraduate student, she pursued a degree in biological science, where she developed a foundational understanding for designing and developing research projects. As her passion for science heightened, she decided to continue her journey in science, culminating in a PhD at the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her research projects focused on the unexplored territory of adipose tissue as a site for Mycobacterium leprae—or leprosy bacillus—infection. She mentioned that this work piqued her curiosity for improving immunotherapies and laid the foundation for her future in cancer research.Continue reading “Promega qPCR Grant Series #3: Immunotherapy Researcher, Dr. Sabrina Alves dos Reis “
Model organisms are essential tools in the pursuit of understanding biological processes, elucidating the mechanisms of diseases, and developing potential treatments and therapies. Use of these organisms in scientific research has paved the way for groundbreaking discoveries across various fields of biology. In particular, non-mammalian models can be valuable due to characteristics such as rapid life cycles, low cost, and amenability to use with advanced genetic tools, including bioluminescent reporters such as NanoLuc® Luciferase.
NanoLuc® is a small (19.1 kDa) luciferase enzyme originating from deep sea shrimp that is 100x brighter than firefly or Renilla luciferase. It utilizes a furimazine substrate to produce its bright glow-type luminescence. In the decade following its development, the NanoLuc® toolbox has expanded to include NanoBiT® complementation, NanoBRET™ energy transfer methods, and new reagents such as the Nano-Glo® Fluorofurimazine In Vivo Substrate (FFz) which was designed for in vivo detection of NanoLuc® Luciferase, NanoLuc® fusion proteins or reconstituted NanoBiT® Luciferase. In addition to the aqueous-soluble reagents increased substrate bioavailability in vivo, with fluorofurimazine, NanoLuc® and firefly luciferase can be used together in dual-luciferase molecular imaging studies.
Here we spotlight some recent research that demonstrates how the expanded NanoLuc® toolbox can be adapted to use in non-mammalian models, shedding new light on fundamental biological processes and advancing our understanding of complex mechanisms in these diverse organisms.Continue reading “Glowing Testimonies: A Review of NanoLuc® Use in Model Organisms”
Our second installment of the Promega qPCR Grant Recipient blog series highlights Dr. Laura Leighton, a trained molecular biologist and postdoctoral researcher at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. Leighton’s scientific journey features a passion for molecular biology and problem-solving. Her path has been illuminated by mentorship, relationships with fellow scientists and a commitment to creativity in overcoming challenges. Here, we explore her scientific journey, reflect on research lessons and foreshadow her plans for the Promega qPCR grant funds.
Dr. Laura Leighton grew up in a rural area in Far North Queensland, Australia, where she spent her early life exploring critters on the family farm. Her upbringing was infused with a deep connection to the environment, from raising tadpoles in wading pools to observing wildlife and witnessing food grow firsthand. Observing the biology around her ultimately piqued her interest in science from a young age. She then began her academic journey in 2011 at the University of Queensland, Australia. She studied biology while participating in a program for future researchers, which led her to undergraduate research work in several research labs. She dabbled in many research avenues in order to narrow in on her scientific interests all while adding different research tools to her repertoire.
After serving as a research assistant in Dr. Timothy Bredy’s lab, she decided to continue work in this lab and pursue a PhD in molecular biology. During her PhD, Leighton worked on several projects from cephalopod mRNA interference to neurological wiring in mice. The common thread in these projects is Leighton’s passion for the puzzles of molecular biology:
“I also love molecular engineering and the modularity of molecular parts. There’s something really special about stringing together sequence in a DNA editor, then seeing it come to life in a cell,” she says.Continue reading “Promega qPCR Grant Series #2: Molecular Biologist, Laura Leighton”
Insects are a keystone species in the animal kingdom, often providing invaluable benefits to terrestrial ecosystems and useful services to mankind. While many of them are seen as pests (think mosquitos), others are important for pollination, waste management, and even scientific research.
Insect biotechnology, or the use of insect-derived molecules and cells to develop products, is applied in a diverse set of scientific fields including agricultural, industrial, and medical biotechnology. Insect cells have been central to many scientific advances, being utilized in recombinant protein, baculovirus, and vaccine and viral pesticide production, among other applications (5).
Therefore, as the use of insect cells becomes more widespread, understanding how they are produced, their research applications, and the scientific products that can be used with them is crucial to fostering further scientific advancements.
Primary Cell Cultures and Cell Lines
In general, experimentation with individual cells, rather than full animal models, is advantageous due to improved reproducibility, decreased space requirements, less ethical concerns, and a reduction in expense. This makes primary cell cultures and cell lines essential contributors to basic scientific research.Continue reading “Insects and Science: Optimizing Work with Sf9 Insect Cells”
On June 15, 2023, we announced the winners of the 2023 Promega iGEM grant. Sixty-five teams submitted applications prior to the deadline with projects ranging from creating a biosensor to detect water pollution to solving limitations for CAR-T therapy in solid tumors. The teams are asking tough questions and providing thoughtful answers as they work to tackle global problems with synthetic biology solutions. Unfortunately, we could only award nine grants. Below are summaries of the problems this year’s Promega grant winners are addressing.
The UCSC iGEM team from the University of California–Santa Cruz is seeking a solution to mitigate the harmful algal blooms caused by Microcystis aeruginosa in Pinto Lake, which is located in the center of a disadvantaged community and is a water source for crop irrigation. By engineering an organism to produce microcystin degrading enzymes found in certain Sphingopyxis bacteria, the goal is to reduce microcystin toxin levels in the water. The project involves isolating the genes of interest, testing their efficacy in E. coli, evaluating enzyme production and product degradation, and ultimately transforming all three genes into a single organism. The approach of in-situ enzyme production offers a potential solution without introducing modified organisms into the environment, as the enzymes naturally degrade over time.
Endometriosis is a condition that affects roughly 190 million (10%) women of reproductive age worldwide. Currently, there is no treatment for endometriosis except surgery and hormonal therapy, and both approaches have limitations. The IISc-Bengaluru team at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, India, received 2023 Promega iGEM grant support to investigate the inflammatory nature of endometriosis by targeting IL-8 (interleukin-8) a cytokine. Research by other groups has snow that targeting IL-8 can reduce endometriotic tissue. This team will be attempting to create an mRNA vaccine to introduce mRNA for antibody against IL-8 into affected tissue. The team is devising a new delivery mechanism using aptides to maximize the delivery of the vaccine to the affected tissues.Continue reading “2023 Promega iGEM Grant Winners: Tackling Global Problems with Synthetic Biology Solutions”
We share this planet with approximately 8.7 million species of plants and animals. Within such a diverse environment, it’s only natural that many complex relationships have developed among different species. Some relationships are mutually beneficial, some are parasitic—and some are lethal.
Natural toxins and venoms are biologically active compounds produced by normal metabolic processes in an organism but are harmful to other organisms. Typically, toxins are encountered passively or ingested by the affected organisms, and have a specific mode of action and binding site within a cell. In contrast, venoms are introduced directly into the victim through a specialized delivery mechanism, and they may consist of a mixture of compounds that affect a range of cell types and tissues (1). Both types of poisons are produced for predation, defense, or to offer a competitive advantage (1).Continue reading “Genome-Wide CRISPR Screening: Putting Death on Hold”
Cells, commonly considered the smallest unit of life, provide structure and function for all living things (3).
Because cells contain the fundamental molecules of life, in some situations such as yeast, a single cell can be considered the complete organism. In other situations, for more complex multicellular organisms, a multitude of cells can mature and acquire different, specialized functions (3).
Cells developing specificity are undergoing differentiation, a process where a cell’s genes are either turned “on” or “off” resultant in a more specific cell type. As these differentiated cells start to exhibit their identity, they organize themselves into the tissues, organs, and organ systems integral to the functioning of a multicellular, developing organism. This process in which order and form is created within a developing organism is referred to as morphogenesis (5).Continue reading “Cell Tracking Using HaloTag: Why are Scientists Chasing Cells?”
Traditional approaches for protein degrader compound screening like Western blotting can be laborious, time consuming and cannot be streamlined with automation. By implementing a high-throughput, automated workflow that uses our CRISPER/Cas9 knock-in cell lines, live-cell bioluminescent assays and sensitive GloMax® Discover microplate readers, our custom assay services offer protein degradation profiling at an accelerated rate.
To do this, we collaborated with HighRes® Biosolutions, to develop an automated system that can screen up to 100 384-well plates each day, generating roughly 40,000 data points with minimal hands-on work.
Learn how bioluminescent tools like HiBiT and NanoBRET™ technology can help you answer key questions in your targeted protein degradation research.
An important step of building this system is to integrate four GloMax® Discover microplate readers into the automated system using instrument’s built-in SiLA2 communication driver. The driver software makes it easy to connect the microplate readers with HighRes® Biosolution’s robotic components.
Check out our setup in the video below.Continue reading “Scaling Up to Measure 40,000 Data Points a Day with GloMax® Microplate Readers”