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Cells and Model Organisms

The Correct Way To Quantify Cellular Autophagy

Just like you need to clean up your room from time to time, your cells also need to do a bit of housekeeping.  Your cells accomplish this through a process called autophagy.  Autophagy mainly serves two roles.  The first is to remove damaging materials, such as misfolded proteins, dysfunctional organelles, and foreign invaders.  The second…

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How to Grow Corn in a Greenhouse

Because of the ease of performing controlled crosses, maize (or corn (Zea mays)), has been a staple of plant genetics research for decades. Barbara McClintock herself chose maize as her research organism for her Nobel Prize winning work. If you are looking to get involved but aren’t sure how to get good yields in the…

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4 Important Considerations for Your Cell Lysis

You’ve cultured your cells and completed your treatments, now it’s time to harvest them and proceed to the downstream effects. Cell lysis is the crucial stage that determines if your experiment has a chance of producing the data that you have been waiting for. Part of the starting biological material is inevitably lost on each…

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Epidemiology: The Underdog of Disease Studies

As bench scientists, we deal primarily with the tangible aspects of biology. The mechanisms and pathways that we try to understand not only allow for us to delve more into how the world works, but can also shed light on disease. However, there is a subject that while distant from traditional bench work, is equally…

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An Introduction to Fertilizers in Plant Research

If you have ever had a home garden, you are probably familiar with the fact that adding a little fertilizer to a plant can really do wonders. This can also be the case in a lab greenhouse! The difference is that instead of adding a bit of the “blue stuff,” we try to be a…

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Kidney Organoids in a Dish

Kidney Modeling with Kidney Organoids Derived from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells Stem cells are a valuable tool for kidney disease modeling as well as experimental regenerative medicine and drug screening. There are more than twenty different cell types in the mature kidney, which adds to the complexity of the model, but also provides the opportunity…

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Meet Nature’s Oldest Doomsday Preppers: Endospores

My favorite reason for being a biologist is that I am endlessly amazed by how life adapts to various pressures on planet Earth. This especially holds true for endospores, one of nature’s most resilient means of surviving for thousands of years in non-ideal environmental conditions. In this article, we’ll explore some of the extreme environments…

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A Beginner’s Guide to Exosome Isolation

For all of you who have never heard of exosomes: You are missing out on a whole new paradigm in cell-to-cell communication. Exosomes are tiny extracellular vesicles that arise from fusion of the plasma membrane with specific endosomal compartments called multivesicular bodies. Most cells types make exosomes, and release them in order to communicate with…

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The Amazing World of Biofilms

What do water pipe slime, dental plaque, and persistent contact lens case contamination have in common? All are the result of biofilms! Biofilms are aggregates of microbes that adhere to surfaces using secreted matrices. Although relatively under explored, this fascinating phenomenon plays a critical role in some of the biggest challenges currently facing medicine, ranging…

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Why Isn’t My Culture Growing? The S-Curve Explained

Whether you work with human cell lines or microbes, their growth is governed by the same principles. I invite you to learn about something that lies at the base of any work with cell culture — whether cells have circular or linear chromosomes—the S-curve of the population growth. The length of each phase depends on…

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Guide to Making and Storing Competent Yeast Cells

Yeasts, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Pichia pastoris, are routinely used in biology research labs around the world. Yeasts are easy-to-culture, unicellular eukaryotes, and make excellent model organisms because of the similarity of their genes and proteins with those of their mammalian counterparts. Yeast cells are used to study gene function, protein interactions,…

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What’s in Your Cell Culture Medium?

Anyone who has performed mammalian cell culture will recognize the typical media recipe: 1 bottle of DMEM, 10% serum, a few other magical ingredients, throw it together and put it on your cells to keep them alive and happy. However, do you know what each ingredient does? Let’s look at the common ingredients in cell…

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Alphabet Soup for Bacteria!

In its simplest form, a bacterial growth medium is designed to support the growth of bacteria. Depending on which bacteria you want to culture, you may have a range of different media to choose from, each containing a rather unique blend of sometimes surprising (and odd!) components! In this article, I will take you through…

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Handling Your Bacteriophage in a Sea of Bacteriologists

When I first told a lab colleague I was going to be doing phage work in a lab that had otherwise only dealt with bacteria, I was met with expressions of awe, and then fear. Being that a bacteriophage is essentially a predator of bacteria, this reaction is legitimate for a bacteria-loving scientist. Also, we…

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How to Manage Greenhouse Pests

In my last article I introduced what it takes to work in a greenhouse. While for the most part it is a pretty simple work environment, there is one aspect that warrants a more in-depth discussion: greenhouse pests. It doesn’t matter if the pest is an insect, virus, or bacteria, it can very quickly bring…

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The Trouble with Disease Models: Case Study in Diabetes

The development of new drugs requires reliable and robust animal disease models. Since the cause of many diseases is still unknown, it is often difficult to identify adequate and predictive disease models. For example, researchers developing treatments for neuropsychiatric diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s face a particular challenge given the subjectivity of many of…

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The Nitty Gritty’s of Cell Culture Techniques

Mammalian cell culture techniques are not something you learn from a book, per se. And because of this, it is important to be properly trained, especially in sterile techniques. It is important to keep your cell lines from contamination and just as important to keep yourself safe. Nevertheless, people tend to do things a little…

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How to Properly Streak a Single Bacterial Colony

Bacteria are the workhorses of many molecular biology laboratories, and mastering the basic techniques to manipulate bacteria is an important stepping-stone towards achieving great results. When isolating DNA from bacteria, it is important to start with a single colony to ensure a homogenous population of bacteria in your culture. Isolating a single bacterial colony from…

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How to Genotype T-DNA Insertion Mutants in Arabidopsis

If you are a plant biologist and working with the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, undoubtedly you are a great fan of The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR).   You also probably order seeds/materials from the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center (ABRC), or request them from fellow scientists. Of course, seeds are one of the basic materials you…

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