Loss of life and serious illness from contamination of manufactured products that are consumed as food or used in medical procedures illustrate the need to prevent contamination events rather than merely detect them after the fact. High-profile news stories have described contamination events in compounding pharmacies (1), food processing and packaging plants (2) and medical device manufacturers (3). Although contamination in manufacturing settings can be physical, chemical, or biological, this article will focus environmental monitoring to determine the quality of a manufacturing facility with respect to microbial contamination.
To ensure that the products they produce and package are manufactured in a high-quality, contaminant-free environment, many industries are required to establish routine environmental monitoring programs. Samples are collected from all potential sources of contamination in the production environment including air, surfaces, water supplies and people. Routine monitoring is essential to detect trends such as increases in potential pathogens over time or the appearance of new species that have not been seen before so that contamination events can be prevented.
Because environmental monitoring requires identification to the level of the species, most environmental monitoring programs will collect samples and then send them off to a facility to be sequenced for genomic identification of any microbial species. Such genotypic analysis involves DNA sequencing of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes to determine the taxonomic classification of bacteria and fungi. In this method, informative sections of the rRNA genes are amplified by PCR; the PCR products sequenced; the sequence is compared to reference libraries; and the results interpreted to make a species-level identification for a given microbial isolate.
The Helix on-site stocking program has been a resource for scientists for many years. With customized onsite stocking, inventory management and automated billing, losing precious time to a missing reagent is a thing of the past.
To better understand the impact of Helix on our customers’ research, we spoke to Chris Thompson of Pro-GeneX, a clinical laboratory in Atlanta, GA. “Using the Helix system has been a game changer from the first day we got it,” Chris said. “It was simple to set up and use from the start and has never let us down. We routinely show it off to visitors to our lab because we are so impressed with it. I only wish all my reagents used a system like this. From an inventory perspective it is the best invention in our lab!”
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.
Schools, businesses and organizations across the globe are increasingly implementing sustainable practices within their workspaces. From large-scale projects like installing solar arrays to behind-the-scenes initiatives like composting cafeteria food waste, “going green” is a reality of the modern workplace.
But one workspace otherwise known for being cutting edge and innovative is still struggling to implement the practices and culture of sustainability.
In her role as a teaching lab coordinator at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Nanobiotechnology (INTB), Christine Duke noticed a contrast between campus-wide sustainability initiatives and research labs:
“There is something missing here. Why aren’t we doing anything in the labs?”
Sustainability is a bit of buzzword lately—for good reason—but knowing how to be more sustainable and actually putting sustainable practices in action are not the same thing. This may be one reason why scientists have been slow to adopt change in their laboratories. By sponsoring My Green Lab, we’re hoping to help spread the message that there are simple changes researchers can make in their labs to significantly impact sustainability.
Here are some easy ways to reduce energy, water and waste in your lab and start making your research more sustainable.
Compared to office buildings on campus, academic lab buildings consume 5 times more energy. To put that into perspective, labs typically consume 50% of the energy on a university campus despite occupying less than 30% of the space. Fortunately, reducing energy usage can be one of the easiest ways to make your lab more sustainable.
Ian Nicastro says he didn’t set out to start a green revolution.
“I’m not hardcore ‘Save the trees,’” Ian says. “I’m probably a little different from the people you traditionally see as promoting the sustainability thing. Obviously, I do want to help the environment, but for me it was like, ‘this is logical, and we should be doing this.’”
Ian is the lab manager of the Pasquinelli Lab, a C. elegans lab at the University of California–San Diego that studies miRNA and its role in processes like aging. He’s been in the lab for about six and a half years, splitting his time between research and lab management duties. According to Allison Paradise, the CEO of My Green Lab, Ian has put out some “outstanding” efforts to implement sustainable practices in the lab. Continue reading “Lab Sustainability Doesn’t Have To Be Painful”
Forensic lab validations can be intimidating, so Promega Technical Services Support and Validation teams shared these tips for making the process go more smoothly.
Prepare Your Lab. Make sure all of your all of your instrumentation (CEs, thermal cyclers, 7500s, centrifuges) and tools (pipettes, heat blocks) requiring calibration or maintenance are up to date.
Start with Fresh Reagents. Ensure you have all required reagents and that they are fresh before beginning your validation. This not only includes the chemistry being validated, but any preprocessing reagents or secondary reagents like, polymer, buffers, TE-4 or H2O.
Develop a Plan. Before beginning a validation, take the time to create plate maps, calculate required reagent volumes, etc. This up-front planning may take some time initially, but will greatly improve your efficiency during testing.
Create an Agenda. After a plan is developed, work through that plan and determine how and when samples will be created and run. Creating an agenda will hold you to a schedule for getting the testing done.
Determine the Number of Samples Needed to Complete Your Validation. Look at your plan and see where samples can be used more than once. The more a sample can be used, the less manipulation done to the sample and the more efficient you become.
Select the Proper Samples for Your Validation. Samples should include those you know you’ll obtain results with be similar to the ones you’ll most likely be using, and your test samples should contain plenty of heterozygotes. When you are establishing important analysis parameters, like thresholds, poor sample choice may cause more problems and require troubleshooting after the chemistry is brought on-line.
Perform a Fresh Quantitation of Your Samples. This will ensure the correct dilutions are prepared. Extracts that have been sitting for a long time may have evaporated or contain condensation, resulting in a different concentration than when first quantitated.
Stay Organized. Keep the data generated in well-organized folders. Validations can contain a lot of samples, and keeping those data organized will help during the interpretation and report writing phase.
Determine the Questions to Be Answered. While writing the report, determine the questions each study requires to be answered. Determining what specifically is required for each study will prevent you from calculating unnecessary data. Do you need to calculate allele sizes of your reproducibility study samples when you showed precision with your ladder samples?
Have fun! Remember, validations are not scary when approached in a methodical and logical fashion. You have been chosen to thoroughly test something that everyone in your laboratory will soon be using. Take pride in that responsibility and enjoy it.
Need more information about validation of DNA-typing products in the forensic laboratory? Check out the validation resources on the Promega web site for more information for the steps required to adopt a new product in your laboratory and the recommended steps that can help make your validation efforts less burdensome.
Researchers working with immortalized cell lines would readily agree when I state that it is almost impossible to look at cells under the microscope and identify them by name. There are phenotypic traits, however they do change with change in media composition, passage number and in response to growth factors. I remember the pretty arborizations my neuroblastoma cell line SH-SY5Y exhibited in response to nerve growth factor treatment. Thus physical appearance is not a distinguishing feature. Currently, in many labs, researchers typically use more than one cell line, and more than likely, share the same lab space to passage cells and the same incubator to grow the cells. In such scenarios, it is not difficult to imagine that cell lines might get mislabeled or cross-contaminated. For example HeLa cells, one of the fastest growing cell lines have been shown to invade and overtake other cell lines.
Misidentification of cell lines has deep and severe implications. A review of cell lines used to study esophageal adenocarcinoma found that a large number of the cell lines were actually derived from lung or gastric cancers. Unfortunately, by the time this error was discovered, data from these cell line studies were already being used for clinical trials and other advanced studies and publications. Moreover, the cell lines were being to screen and design and test specific cancer drugs which ended up in flawed clinical trials. Continue reading ““Fingerprinting” Your Cell Lines”
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