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Cells and Model Organisms

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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Breaking the Wall: How to Make Protoplasts

Non-mammalian cells, including bacteria, fungi, and plant cells, have a cell wall that maintains the shape of the cell. These cell walls are particularly strong, due to their composition as they contain polymers that create a rigid sphere around the vulnerable cytoplasm contained inside the plasma membrane. In bacteria, the cell wall includes several layers…

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“Viable But Non-Culturable (VBNC)”: Zombies of the Bacterial World

Imagine that you want to test the efficiency of an antimicrobial treatment in inhibiting a certain bacterial pathogen. As part of the experiment, you expose the bacteria to the treatment and monitor the cultivability of the microorganism by counting the number of colony forming units (CFU) formed on culture media. If the microorganism is sensitive…

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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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