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Cells and Model Organisms

Staying Alive: Tips for Air-Liquid Interface Cultures

What Is Air-Liquid Interface Culture? Long gone are the days where scientists had to rely on 2D cultures of immortalized cell lines to learn principles of human biology. Today, we have a variety of cell culture systems that come closer than ever before to mimicking the structure and function of our body’s organs. One example…

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C. elegans: The Elegant Model System

In research, choosing a model system is like choosing a partner – you want it to be a perfect fit. If you are attempting to solve problems such as finding unknown proteins in known processes, investigating unknown functions of known proteins or correlating cell biology to a function for which you want a relatively simple…

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Five Factors Affecting Your Mouse Behavioral Studies 

Let’s face it: the nature of behavior itself is inherently variable, whether it’s the heterogeneous socializing behavior of humans at parties, the complex aggressive behavior of rodents when they perceive a threat, or the intricate courtship behavior of insects during their mating dances. Because of this variability, the struggles associated with trying to (successfully) reproduce…

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A Bug Ate My Experiment, Part 2

In the first article of this series, I introduced microscopic parasites that infect greenhouse plants.  Initially, my goal for Part 2 was to list all the main types of infestations, but I quickly realized to do so would result in a textbook. Thus, this article will be about the most familiar and easy to identify…

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Isolating Monocytes from Whole Blood: A Step-by-Step Guide

So, you’ve done a few experiments and had fun with THP-1 cells, but now it’s time to translate those results to primary human monocytes. Isolating monocytes requires blood. Lots and lots of blood, depending on your downstream assay of choice. The yield can vary wildly by donor (if they had a cold at the time…

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Culturing the Unculturable: Working with Difficult Bacteria

As the vast majority of bacteria cannot be readily cultured in the laboratory [1], culture-dependent methods to investigate bacteria grossly underestimate the diversity of bacterial communities. To investigate unculturable bacteria without isolating them, culture-independent methods such as sequencing have been used. Unculturable bacteria can be identified by PCR amplification and sequencing of housekeeping genes such…

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How to Transform Microalgae

What is the first image which comes to mind when you think about microalgae? Green scum that covers the surfaces of ponds? Unsightly stains on pavements and walls? Far from being a nuisance in ponds, lakes, drains and on surfaces, microalgae are fascinating microorganisms which are used to understand various biological processes. Microalgae have been…

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Assays: Wellular to Cellular

Out with the Old… Well-based assays have been the standard for common laboratory experiments, such as fluorescence cytometry. A researcher places a small amount of sample into a well on a plate and assays it, which produces a single data point. However, this so-called single data point is actually an average of the measurements of…

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How to Feed Fruit Fly Larvae Small Molecules

Generally speaking, fruit flies are a great model system. Not only are they small, thus taking up very little space in the lab, but their adult lifespan is only 40-60 days, so you can track age-dependent changes without having to wait months and months. Fruit flies also display complex behaviors and more than 75% of…

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Emerging Model Microorganisms Take to the Stage

Estimates indicate that there may be up to 2 billion living species of organisms, each with conserved and unique biological mechanisms that are vital for survival. How do scientists understand them all? Enter model organisms. Model organisms, as the name implies, are living things which are used as representative models for understanding other organisms. They…

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Gender Reveal: How to Determine the Gender of Drosophila Larvae

Drosophila melanogaster, otherwise known as the common fruit fly, is one of the oldest and most powerful model systems used in biology. Fruit flies are cheap to maintain, and have a shorter life cycle and higher fecundity than mammalian models. They also have extraordinary genetic tools with which to investigate many molecular and cellular questions.…

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Greenhouse Maintenance: Keeping Your (Green) Laboratory Clean

Cleaning the lab is one of the hardest jobs because it’s dull and repetitive. However, nobody in their sound scientific mind would argue that this can be avoided. Dust accumulates bugs, bacteriophages, and RNAses that can stray into your experiment and ruin it. Old boxes piling up is a fire hazard. Anybody who refuses to…

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10 Tips on Mating Mice Successfully

Tiny, furry, spinning around a wheel – few creatures are as endearing as the lab mouse. Trying to obtain reproductive success with them, however, can leave you spinning your own wheels. Why is it that what works so well for the animal facility staff, or experienced technician, seems to be beyond your reach? After all,…

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3 Ways to Use Flow Cytometry for Your Activation Experiment

Studying immune cell activation allows scientists to understand the way the body mounts a response to a specific infection, autoimmune diseases, or cancer. This knowledge plays a direct role in developing more efficacious vaccines and therapies. When tasked with capturing information on immune cell activation, flow cytometry remains the gold standard due to its versatility,…

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The Rites of Passage: Subculturing Microorganisms

Anyone who has worked with microorganisms, be it bacteria or yeast, is familiar with subculturing – the act of transferring some cells from a previous culture to a fresh growth medium. You do it either to reset the growth phase of your culture or to increase the biomass for downstream experiments. But there’s more to…

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The art of generating single cell clones

Making mutations in mammalian cell lines is becoming much easier, especially with advanced molecular engineering techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9, among others. However, after making a mutation, do you know if all of the cells contain the same mutation with the same expression profiles, and are therefore homogenous? If you have 100% transfection efficiency using a…

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