This blog was written by guest blogger and 2018 Promega Social Media Intern Logan Godfrey.
Only 30 years ago, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
was used for the first time, allowing the exponential amplification of a specific
DNA segment. A small amount of DNA could now be replicated until there was
enough of it to study accurately, even allowing sequencing of the amplified DNA.
This was a massive breakthrough that produced immediate effects in the fields
of forensics and life science research. Since these technologies were first
introduced however, the molecular biology research laboratory has been the sole
domain of PCR and DNA sequencing.
While an amazing revolution, application of a technology
such as DNA sequencing is limited by the size and cost of DNA sequencers, which
in turn restricts accessibility. However, recent breakthroughs are allowing DNA
sequencing to take place in jungles, the arctic, and even space—giving science
the opportunity to reach further, faster than ever before.
The newfound accessibility of DNA sequencing means a
marriage between fields of science that were previously largely unacquainted.
The disciplines of genomics and wildlife biology/ecology have largely progressed
independently. Wildlife biology is practiced in the field through observations
and macro-level assessments, and genomics, largely, has developed in a lab
setting. Leading the charge in the convergence of wildlife biology and genomics
is Field Projects International.
Tradeoffs are a constant source of challenge in any research lab. To get faster results, you will probably need to use more resources (people, money, supplies). The powerful lasers used to do live cell imaging may well kill those cells in the process. Purifying DNA often leaves you to choose between purity and yield.
Working with biologics also involves a delicate balancing act. Producing compounds in biological models rather than by chemical synthesis offers many advantages, but it is not without certain challenges. One of those tradeoffs results from scaling up; the more plasmid that is produced, the greater probability of endotoxin contamination.
We’re all familiar with the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology: DNA is transcribed into RNA, which is translated into proteins. It’s drilled into our heads from the early days of biology classes, and it’s surprisingly useful when we start exploring in our own research projects. For example, if you’re interested in gene expression, you’ll most likely be working with RNA, specifically mRNA. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is transcribed from DNA and is used by ribosomes as a “template” for a specific protein. The total mRNA in a cell represents all of the genes that are actively being transcribed. So, if you want to know whether or not a gene is being transcribed, RNA purification is a great place to start.
When preparing your RNA samples for a downstream assay, there are several roadblocks and pitfalls that could give you quite a headache. Let’s tackle two of the most common.
We can learn a lot about the past and its people from the written records of the time. What people write and how they write it can gives us glimpses into historical events, interpersonal relationships, social standing and even social and cultural norms. From paper to papyrus to clay tablets, the surface that holds the writing can tell us things that the words cannot.
Implementing automated nucleic acid purification or making changes to your high-throughput (HT) workflow can be complicated and time-consuming. There are also many barriers to success such as challenging samples types and maintaining desirable downstream results that can add to the stress, not to mention actually getting the robotic instrumentation to do what you want it to. All of this makes it easy to understand why many labs avoid automating or own expensive instrumentation that goes unused. Continue reading “High-Throughput Purification with Experts Included”
The researchers completed an analysis revealing that patient information materials had an average readability at a high school level, while the average patient reads at a fourth-grade level. These findings inspired the researchers to conduct a study in which they enlisted the help of elementary students to revise the content of the patient literature after giving them a short lesson on the material.
The resulting content did not provide more effective ways to communicate indications, pre- and post-op care, risks or procedures—that wasn’t really the point. Instead, the study underscores the important connection between patient literacy and health outcomes. More specifically, a lack of health literacy is correlated with poor outcomes and increased healthcare costs, prompting action from the US Department of Health & Human Services.
While healthcare information can be complex and full of specific medical terminology, I recognized that a lot of the technical and marketing information we create for our products at Promega has similar features. Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out how descriptions of some of our biggest technologies translate through the eyes and mouths of children?
After enlisting some help from my colleagues, I was able to catch a glimpse of how our complex technologies are understood by the little people in our lives. The parents and I explained a technology and then had our child provide a description or drawing of what they understood. Continue reading “Biotechnology From the Mouths of Babes”
One of the most critical parts of a Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) workflow is library preparation and nearly all NGS library preparation methods use some type of size-selective purification. This process involves removing unwanted fragment sizes that will interfere with downstream library preparation steps, sequencing or analysis.
Different applications may involve removing undesired enzymes and buffers or removal of nucleotides, primers and adapters for NGS library or PCR sample cleanup. In dual size selection methods, large and small DNA fragments are removed to ensure optimal library sizing prior to final sequencing. In all cases, accurate size selection is key to obtaining optimal downstream performance and NGS sequencing results.
Current methods and chemistries for the purposes listed above have been in use for several years; however, they are utilized at the cost of performance and ease-of-use. Many library preparation methods involve serial purifications which can result in a loss of DNA. Current methods can result in as much as 20-30% loss with each purification step. Ultimately this may necessitate greater starting material, which may not be possible with limited, precious samples, or the incorporation of more PCR cycles which can result in sequencing bias. Sample-to-sample reproducibility is a daily challenge that is also regularly cited as an area for improvement in size-selection.
Here at Promega we receive some interesting requests…
Take the case of Virginia Riddle Pearson, elephant scientist. Three years ago we received an email from Pearson requesting a donation of GoTaq G2 Taq polymerase to take with her to Africa for her field work on elephant herpesvirus. Working out of her portable field lab (a tent) in South Africa and Botswana, she needed a polymerase she could count on to perform reliably after being transported for several days (on her lap) at room temperature. Through the joint effort of her regional sales representative in New Jersey/Pennsylvania (Pearson’s lab was based out of Princeton University at the time) and our Genomics product marketing team, she received the G2 Taq she needed to take to Africa. There she was able to conduct her experiments, leading to productive results and the opportunity to continue pursuing her work. Continue reading “Of Elephant Research and Wildlife Crime – Molecular Tools that Matter”
The European Union (EU) has a zero tolerance policy for products containing any material from non-authorized genetically modified (GM) crops. Seed entering EU markets may not contain even trace amounts of non-authorized genetically modified material. In 2012, as the global use of GM crops increased, seed testing loads in the EU continued to build. Isolating genomic DNA (gDNA) using traditional manual methods was becoming impractical in the face of increasing amounts of material that required testing. There was a growing need for an automated method to isolate gDNA from seed samples. Working to address this need, a group of scientists from the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority collaborated with scientists from Promega Corporation to evaluate the Maxwell® 16 Instrument and the associated chemistry as possible a solution for the testing labs. Continue reading “Easy Automated Genomic DNA Isolation for GMO Testing: From Vision to Reality”
Ever think about the kinds of challenges R&D scientists run up against in the course of developing a new product? The development of the Maxwell® RSC ccfDNA (circulating cell-free DNA) Plasma Kit is a particularly interesting example. Its path to commercialization was characterized by a number of unexpected technical hurdles, yet each was overcome through creative troubleshooting and aided by valuable collaborations across departments. All had a hand in finally launching the kit last August.
The product’s launch was an exciting milestone for Promega as research interest in the role of ccfDNA as biomarkers in human disease continues to grow. Elevated levels of ccfDNA have now been reported in patients with cancer, inflammatory disease, infections and cardiovascular disease. In pregnant women, up to 10% of ccfDNA can be attributed to the fetus, so critical fetal DNA analysis can now be conducted through maternal blood samples. There are many advantages in the ability to isolate and analyze ccfDNA, so the development of a kit with high throughput capability was a priority for the Nucleic Acid Purification R&D team. Continue reading “The Making of a Promega Product: Teamwork = Success for the Maxwell RSC® ccfDNA Plasma Kit”