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Cells and Model Organisms

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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Crash Course in Microbial Identification

Welcome to this crash course in microbial identification methods! Here, you will get an overview of the traditional and modern methods available for the identification of bacteria, yeast or filamentous fungi to the species level. Species level identification allows you to discriminate confidently between two species from the same genus, something that is often essential in the treatment of infectious…

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Tips for Getting Your Neurons Firing… Consistently

Primary cultures of rodent (rat and mice) neurons are widely used for disease modeling and studying cellular mechanisms in neurobiology. If you are in this field and need help with protocols and batch-to-batch variability of your dissociated primary rodent neurons, read further below. Also consider watching several JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) articles.1-24 These cover…

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Seeing Your Way Clear: Corneal Stem Cells from Bench to Bedside

Welcome to the first Bitesize Bio article focused on the cornea. As you read this you are peering through at least one cornea—a thin layer of cells on the surface of the eye. The cornea is the eye’s first line of defense against harsh environmental assaults, such as dust, infectious microbes and errant mascara, all…

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Cre-loxP Recombination Essentials Part 2

The Cre-loxP recombination system is routinely used for the generation of mouse knockouts. In part 1 of this mini-series, I introduced the concept and applications of Cre-loxP. As with any other technology or research tool, it has limitations and pitfalls that need to be considered while planning experiments or interpreting results. This article will take…

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Cre-loxP Recombination Essentials Part 1

You might have heard of the Cre-loxP system even if you are not directly working with genetic manipulation. The Cre-loxP system is an ubiquitous technology for genetic manipulation and a mainstay in mouse research labs. With this system you can delete genes in cells, specific tissues and even whole organisms! You can start to master this system by…

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Mini Me: What Makes for Good Models of Human Disease?

One of the major roadblocks to the development of novel therapies is the lack of robust and reliable animal models. Selecting and validating animal models that mimic human conditions is challenging, especially when faced with chronic multi-factorial diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Acknowledging this problem, the National Institutes of Health initiated the Animal Models…

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Simple Tips for Model Organism-Based Work

Simple Tips for Model Organism-Based Work The mouse is the favored model organism for life science researchers so much so that mice account for about 95% of all lab animals used in research. The striking similarities between the human and mouse genomes, ease of genetic manipulation and the uniformity achieved through inbred mating makes them…

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